ED Review (03/17/23)

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March 17, 2023


President's Budget Request 

On March 9, President Biden submitted to Congress his budget request for Fiscal Year 2024.  The budget details a blueprint to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out, lower costs for families, protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security, and reduce the deficit by ensuring the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share -- while ensuring that no one making less than $400,000 per year pays more in taxes.  “My budget is about investing in America -- in all of America….,” the President asserted.  “[W]e’ve made a lot of progress in the first two years.  Families across the country are starting to breathe a little easier, but we’ve got further to go” (fact sheet and President’s remarks). 

The President specifically requested $90 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, a $10.8 billion (13.6%) increase over current budget allocations. 

Among other items, the request:

  • provides $20.5 billion for Title I grants to school districts, a $2.2 billion increase, to help close opportunity and achievement gaps in the nation’s schools and sustain programs that support students’ academic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic;
  • proposes a new, $500 million demonstration program to expand high-quality public preschool in schools and community-based settings for children eligible to attend Title I schools;
  • provides an additional $2.7 billion for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs, including $2.1 billion more for Part B grants to states and $392 million more for Part C grants for infants and toddlers;
  • proposes funding for schools to design and adopt formative and diagnostic assessments to support teaching and learning;
  • invests $3 billion in educator preparation, development, and leadership;
  • dedicates $428 million to meeting the mental health needs of students, teachers, and school staff by increasing the number of school-based counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other health professionals, and proposes a new, $150 million investment to support postsecondary institutions in developing campus-wide strategies to address student mental health needs;
  • provides $178 million for the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a 27% increase, to ensure continued leadership in protecting equal access to education through enforcement of civil rights laws;
  • provides $368 million to expand Full-Service Community Schools, more than doubling program funding;
  • invests $1.2 billion, a $305 million increase, to support English learners through research-based and effective bilingual education and language instruction programs under Title III;
  • elevates the multilingual workforce and provides grants to boost instruction in world languages;
  • invests $1.47 billion, a $43 million increase, in career and technical education state grants, as well as $200 million to redesign high schools to build college and career pathways that fully align with postsecondary systems;
  • proposes to increase the maximum Pell Grant to $8,215 (through a combination of mandatory and discretionary funding);
  • invests $500 million in a new program that provides up to two years of free postsecondary education through high-quality community college programs;
  • enhances institutional capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), and low-resourced institutions, including community colleges, with an increase of $429 million; and
  • makes significant investments in Federal Student Aid, providing $2.7 billion to support borrowers as they return to repayment, improve student loan servicing, and support the administration of programs. 

“The President’s latest budget request calls on Congress to act with urgency and provide our schools with the resources needed to raise the bar in education by promoting academic excellence and rigorous instruction, improving learning conditions, and answering unmet challenges like the educator shortage and the mental health needs of our students,” Secretary Cardona noted.  “Our Administration is also pushing for dramatic new investments in high-quality preschool that provide all our youngest learners with a sturdy bridge to elementary school success.  The…budget also supports efforts the Department’s efforts to boost global competitiveness by expanding opportunities for multilingual learning, redesigning high schools to include multiple pathways to college and career, and super-charging state and local efforts to make free community college a reality nationwide.” 

The Department’s budget resources include a press release, the budget summarykey highlights, Congressional justifications, and a video recording of the in-person briefing for stakeholders. 


Classroom Conditions 

In an op-ed published in the Tampa Bay Times (ICYMI message), Secretary Cardona stresses “Parents don’t want politicians dictating what their children can learn, think, and believe.  That’s not how public education is supposed to work in a free country….  Parents are also speaking out about their worries that politicians are using our kids’ education as a political football.” 

“It’s heartbreaking, for example, to see politicians trying to prevent students from learning about the history, arts and culture, contributions, and experiences of African-Americans -- especially when Black history is a vital part of our shared American story.  They want to ban kids from learning the truth when it doesn’t align with their political agenda.  But it’s vital for all of us to understand our full history -- the triumphs and the tragedies -- so we can build a strong, shared American future. 

“It’s just as disturbing that some politicians want to limit our children’s freedom to read.  Over the last year, four million students have had their reading censored through book bans -- with the majority of [them] censoring stories of people of color or LGBTQI+ Americans….  Censorship is not only against our values as a nation -- it makes it harder for children to learn.  The thousands of families that I’ve met want more -- not fewer -- books on the shelves of their schools and local libraries. 

“We don’t dictate what is taught in classrooms.  But, we do stand up for what we’re hearing form parents across America.”  In particular, the Secretary emphasized more resources for learning and more opportunities for engagement; giving teachers a raise and ensuring educators reflect the diversity of students; and ensuring students have access to quality mental health care in schools. 

“I have always said that division is distraction,” he concludes.  “We must move past the partisan bickering that distracts from the real work we need to do: Raise the Bar so every child in America receives a comprehensive, excellent education that enables them to achieve their dreams.” 


Secret Shopper 

The Department announced this week that the Enforcement Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) will use secret shoppers as an additional tool to monitor postsecondary institutions’ compliance with laws and regulations governing their participation in FSA programs.  In particular, secret shoppers will evaluate recruitment, enrollment, financial aid, and other practices of institutions to help identify potentially deceptive or predatory practices used to recruit and enroll students.  Secret shoppers will look for misrepresentations regarding the transferability of credits, job placement rates, completion and withdrawal rates, graduates’ future earning potential, the cost of attendance, the amount of federal student aid, and accreditation status. 

Findings from secret shopping may serve as evidence to support an ongoing investigation or review or provide a basis for opening a new investigation or review.  Wherever appropriate, FSA will refer findings to other offices, including the Office of Inspector General.  It will also share findings with other law enforcement partners at the federal and state levels. 

In addition to the secret shopper bulletin, FSA also issued two other enforcement bulletins to bolster institution compliance and better communicate with stakeholders.  The first bulletin warned institutions the Department will act aggressively when it finds misrepresentations made to servicemembers and veterans.  The second bulletin announced a new avenue for knowledgeable sources to submit tips concerning potential violations of laws and regulations governing FSA programs. 


Last week, the Department announced five finalists in the Future Finder Challenge, a $1 million challenge to reimage career navigation for adult learners.  Each of these finalists will receive $50,000 to support the development of their prototype and will participate in a virtual accelerator -- six months of intensive technical assistance -- to further develop their products (video). 

Also last week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) launched its second Artificial Intelligence (AI) scoring challenge, inviting members of the AI community to develop predictive models for scoring open-ended National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics assessment items.  Automated scoring of NAEP items has many potential benefits, including improved reliability, reduced scoring time, and cost savings.  The total prize purse is $100,000, and the application deadline is April 17.  (Note: In 2021, NCES hosted a challenge for open-ended responses in NAEP reading assessments and demonstrated that such items can be scored accurately using automated techniques.) 

Then, this week, the Department’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) launched the Career Z Challenge, a $2.5 million competition supporting the Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative.  Through this new challenge, OCTAE invites entrants to engage collaborative ecosystems of educators, businesses, industries, workforce professionals, and community stakeholders to provide students interconnected and expansive career development opportunities and experiences across grades 9-12.  Semifinalists and finalists will receive a portion of the prize pool, and Phase 1 submissions are due May 24. 


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning for the expiration of the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 on May 11 via a transition roadmap. 

In March 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), part of HHS, temporarily waived certain Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements and conditions, helping prevent individuals with Medicaid and CHIP from losing their health coverage during the pandemic.  However, states will soon be required to restart Medicaid and CHIP eligibility reviews.  For millions of students, it is critical their parents update their contact information with their state’s Medicaid agency and respond quickly to requests for verification.  Otherwise, they could lose coverage unnecessarily and/or it will be difficult for them to transition to other sources of coverage.  CMS developed a communications toolkit (in English and Spanish) to inform stakeholders about this so-called unwinding. 

In a joint letter, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary Cardona encourage districts and schools to host international students this school year and in the future through the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Secondary School Student Program.  “American high school exchanges are a fundamental part of U.S. public diplomacy efforts and some of the U.S. government’s earliest grassroots exchanges, having begun in significant numbers following the Second World War,” they explain.  “[T]he presence of international students in our classrooms benefits American students and schools by promoting cultural curiosity, a global mindset, and mutual understanding” (Blinken’s tweet and Cardona’s tweet). 



“Our educator workforce is made up of a majority of women -- about three-quarters of our nation’s teachers….  Women play a central role in the work of the U.S. Department of Education, too.  More than 60% of the agency’s workforce is comprised of women, who inspire us daily with their commitment to raising the bar on what it means to be a public servant, wearing many hats at work, at home, and in their communities, and never wavering in their service to achieving our important mission of expanding educational excellence and equity for all.  And while women continue to shape the story of this nation, we can’t forget that there is still much work to be done to achieve full gender equality.  We’re heartened by the progress we’ve made as a country and when we imagine the transformative change that the next generation -- the students currently in our classrooms -- will lead!” 

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten (3/8/23), from an open letter honoring Women’s History Month 


The first virtual session in the Family Engagement Learning Series discussed how family engagement can support literacy and math.  Register today for the second virtual session, March 28 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, which will explore how family engagement can measurably improve school attendance and student engagement. 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s National Summer Teacher Institute, July 16-21 in St. Louis, is a hands-on professional development program for K-12 educators to learn techniques to foster and unleash the innovator in every student.  Applications are being accepted until March 31.  There is no fee for participants, and travel and lodging costs are covered for those living over 50 miles from the venue. 

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