ED Review (05/26/23)

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May 26, 2023


Mental Health Supports 

On May 14, honoring the lives of those killed in Buffalo, New York, one year before, and Uvalde, Texas, less than two weeks later (see more below), President Biden authored an op-ed published in USA Today announcing 13 new actions his Administration is taking to implement the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) and maximize the benefits of the law -- reducing gun violence and saving lives. 

The next day, the Department announced more than $95 million in grants across 35 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need districts.  These grants, through the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program and the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program, were funded under BSCA.  To date, the agency has awarded some $286 million to 264 grantees in 48 states and territories through these programs under BSCA.  Grantees estimate these funds will prepare over 14,000 new mental health professionals for America’s schools.  (There is a state-by-state breakdown of projections in the release.)  The agency also announced up to $2.6 million in BSCA funding for a new Mental Health Personnel Technical Assistance Center to support grantees in meeting their goals and the field more broadly by disseminating best practices in recruiting, training, placing, and retaining mental health service providers. 

Over the next five years, the Department will award the remainder of the $1 billion provided under BSCA through the grant programs, advancing the President’s goal, as part of his Mental Health Strategy, to double the number of school counselors, social workers, and other school-based mental health professionals. 

All these grants complement $1 billion in BSCA funding supporting safe school environments through the Stronger Connections Grant Program (BSCA landing page). 

Meanwhile, a White House fact sheet issued on Mental Health Day of Action (May 18) captures the Administration’s critical actions to advance the President’s mental health strategy across three key objectives: strengthening the mental health workforce and system capacity, connecting more Americans to care, and creating a continuum of support. 

The Department is specifically proposing a new rule that would streamline Medicaid billing permissions for student with disabilities.  Of the around 500,000 new students who are found eligible under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) each year, nearly 300,000 are likely to be eligible for Medicaid (press release).  The proposed changes do not alter any of the crucial parental consent provisions required by IDEA, nor do they impact parental consent obligations under the Family Educational Records and Privacy Act (FERPA), but they would help cut the red tape that schools face in billing Medicaid and meet obligations to ensure that students with disabilities receive a free, appropriate education in accordance with their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). 

Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new guidance to make it easier for schools to bill Medicaid. 

Finally, in coordination with HHS, the Department launched a new initiative, Free to Learn, to support states and territories, school districts, and public health agencies in preventing, addressing, and responding to incidents of bullying, violence, and hate by supporting school safety, school-based mental health, and positive school climate -- so all students are free to learn.  Pledge to Partner today! 


School Diversity 

Also last week, as the nation commemorated the 69th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the Department released a new report on the state of diversity within America’s schools.  Based on currently available data and a review of educational and economic research, the report found that progress toward increased racial and socio-economic diversity has stalled in many communities as segregation patterns have persisted, leading to inequitable access and outcomes for students. 

The report responds to a Congressional directive that the agency examine and publicly release information on racial and economic segregation within the U.S. education system.  According to the published data, three in five Black and Latino students and two in five American Indian and Alaska Native students attend schools where at least 75% of students are students of color, whereas roughly half of white students attend schools in which students of color make up less than 25% of the student population (press release). 

The Department’s new Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Grants seek to provide students with access to a well-rounded education and improve school conditions for student learning by voluntarily developing or implementing comprehensive plans for increasing socio-economic diversity. 


Congratulations Graduates! 

Earlier this week, the Department released proposed regulations to establish the strongest set of safeguards ever to protect students from insufficient earnings or unaffordable debt from career training programs, along with new measures to increase transparency across all postsecondary programs.  The proposals include a Gainful Employment (GE) rule, which would terminate access to federal financial aid for career training programs that routinely leave graduates with earnings that are no higher than workers without any education beyond high school or unmanageable debt burdens.  This GE rule is estimated to protect more than 700,000 students annually who would otherwise enroll in one of nearly 1,800 low-performing programs. 

The Higher Education Act (HEA) requires that certificate programs at all institutions and degree programs at private, for-profit schools provide training that prepares students for gainful employment within a recognized occupation.  Under the proposed GE rule, programs would have to show that: (1) at least half of graduates have higher earnings than a typical high school graduate in their state’s labor force who never pursued postsecondary education and (2) graduates can afford annual debt payments -- in particular, the share needed to devote to paying their debt must be equal to or less than 8% of annual earnings or equal to or less than 20% of discretionary earnings (defined as annual earnings above 150% of the federal poverty guidelines).  Programs would be assessed separately on each metric.  Programs that fail at least one metric would need to warn students that the program is at risk of losing access to federal student aid.  Programs that fail the same metric twice within a three-year period would lose access to federal aid. 

Other proposals would shine a light on the “true costs” and financial outcomes of undergraduate and graduate degree programs.  To that end, the agency would collect information about costs (tuition and fees, books, and other supplies), non-federal grant aid, typical borrowing amounts, earnings, any applicable occupational and licensing requirements, and licensure exam passage rates.  Information would be made publicly available on a web site managed by the Department, and students would need to acknowledge viewing these disclosures before receiving loans to attend programs that consistently leave students with high debt burdens. 

The Department will also create a “watch list” of the least financially valuable programs, focusing on those that play an outsized role in burdening graduates with unaffordable debts (fact sheet for accountability and transparency). 

And, the rules propose changes to three other regulatory areas: financial responsibility, including proposals to make it easier for the Department to secure upfront financial protection when institutions start to exhibit signs of financial struggle; administrative capacity, including proposals to increase requirements for institutions to provide adequate career services and clearer financial aid information; and certification procedures, including proposals to make it easier for the Department to incorporate safeguards into written agreements with institutions participating in federal student aid programs (fact sheet for other provisions). 


As the Biden Administration issued the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, the Department launched its Antisemitism Awareness Campaign.  This effort will bring the full resources of the agency to bear to ensure all students -- including Jewish students -- are able to attend schools free from discrimination, including harassment.  Among the campaign’s resources, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools of their legal obligations under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide all students -- including those who are or perceived to be Jewish -- a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics or citizenship/residency in a country with a dominant religion or religious identity.  Schools must take immediate and appropriate action to respond to harassment that creates a hostile environment.  OCR generally finds that a hostile environment exists where there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.  (Note: The Department will take additional actions as part of the campaign, from conducting site visits of K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions that are engaged in their own campaigns to address antisemitism to raising awareness about federal resources that can be utilized to prevent and address antisemitism.) 


In a mid-May Dear Colleague Letter to Chief State School Officers and district and school leaders, Secretary Cardona provided updated guidance regarding constitutionally protected prayer and religious expression in public elementary and secondary schools.  The Department last issued such guidance on January 16, 2020.  Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal and state courts have considered the scope of First Amendment protections and addressed their application in schools.  Therefore, it is important that school districts, schools, and the public have an accurate understanding of the current state of law and the scope of public schools’ authority to regulate the way in which school employees may engage in religious expression in the presence of the students under their care.  Prior guidance discussed how constitutional principles apply in various educational contexts, such as accommodation of prayer during instructional and non-instructional time, prayer at graduation, moments of silence, the gathering of religious student groups for prayer, and the rights and responsibilities of teachers and other school staff; the updated guidance retains much of that discussion, because the state of the law has not changed materially in many of those contexts.  (Note: In a personal video, the Secretary speaks about his religious up-bringing, the role that faith has had in his career, and the updated guidance.) 


  • Don’t miss this compelling story in honor of Mother’s Day.
  • The Department congratulated the Class of 2023 via a couple of tweets: 1 and 2.
  • Also, President Biden delivered the commencement address at Howard University (remarks and video), while Secretary Cardona delivered the commencement address for Columbia University’s Teachers College (remarks and photo).
  • Additionally, the Secretary traveled to Puerto Rico, where he expressed his support for the island’s decision to decentralize its education system (press release, executive summary, and photos 1, 2, and 3), and, as part of her “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” tour, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten visited Richmond, Virginia’s CodeRVA Regional High School and the District of Columbia’s Oyster-Adams Bilingual School.
  • The Administration announced further actions to safeguard children’s privacy, health, and safety from online harms, building on U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s recent Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health.
  • Also, the Administration shared new efforts to advance the research, development, and deployment of responsible artificial intelligence (AI), including a new report from the Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) that summarizes opportunities and challenges for AI in teaching, learning, research, and assessment based on public input (press release and core messages).
  • The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Justice Department issued a letter about efforts to address barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in online activities, programs, and services that postsecondary institutions make available for students and the public (see OCR’s Digital Accessibility web page).
  • A few more powerful posts from Teacher Appreciation Week: 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  • And another reminder that multilingualism is a superpower!
  • Secretary Cardona testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (May 11) and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (May 16) on the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for the Department of Education.
  • The Secretary also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with his counterpart at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to strengthen collaboration between the agencies, including efforts to increase student access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and space education (press release, photos, and video).
  • Some new resources from the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE): revised Title I Equitable Services guidance and draft 21st Century Community Learning Centers guidance.
  • The latest “Lessons from the Field” session focused on supporting student mental health: what works in schools.
  • OCR shared a resolution agreement with Forsyth County Schools in Georgia on the removal of books from its school libraries creating a racially and sexually hostile environment for students.
  • Also, the Secretary offered video commentary on the censoring of poet Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb.”
  • OESE issued Notices Inviting Applications (NIAs) for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Early-Phase Grants, Mid-Phase Grants, and Expansion Grants -- deadline: June 22.
  • Help shape the future of education by becoming an essential peer reviewer of grants!
  • In the latest “Discipline Discussions” blog -- the sixth in a series -- Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Director Valerie Williams and three OSEP technical assistance centers tackle suspensions, expulsions, and informal removals in preschool.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the “Condition of Education 2023,” with indicators on the state of education, from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons.  This year’s spotlights: teacher openings during the pandemic and challenges and strategies recovering from the pandemic.
  • By unanimous vote, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) approved a resolution requesting Congress postpone the 2026 Nation’s Report Card in reading and math to 2027, restoring the test administration schedule to off-cycle from federal elections. 


“One year ago in Uvalde, families experienced the horror of learning their precious loved ones were among the 19 fourth-graders and two educators killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, along with 17 others seriously injured.  In the wake of this tragedy, the U.S. Department of Education pledged that Uvalde would not have to shoulder this burden alone and that we would use every resource available to support them in every way possible.  One year later, the needs in Uvalde remain significant.  In addition to the $1.5 million we provided last year to support their immediate needs, we are continuing our commitment with another $1.5 million Project SERV grant to help students, families, and educators continue coping with this grief and trauma as the district works to restore a sense of safety in their schools.  We cannot fathom the unspeakable pain these families and the community have endured over the last year.  We cannot accept a status quo in which our educators have to teach our children how to run, hide, and fight before they learn to read.  We cannot ignore that America is the only country where guns are the number one killer of children and teens….  I will never forget my visit to Uvalde, mourning with the families and teachers and listening to their desperate pleas for action.  I pray for them, and I pray for our nation’s lawmakers to put the lives of children ahead of the gun industry.” 

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (5/17/23), in a statement marking the one-year anniversary of the Uvalde school shooting (see also President Biden’s remarks and Vice President Harris’ statement) 


This Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, at 3 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing and spend one minute in a Moment of Remembrance.  The mid-afternoon time was chosen because it is when many Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the holiday. 

On May 31, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, all are welcome to join Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Secretary Cardona for a virtual discussion about the Administration’s efforts to reduce youth drug use and overdose, with examples of schools that have implemented life-saving measures for their students.  The discussion will include evidence-based primary prevention, access to naloxone, and resources to support schools.  Please register in advance for this webinar. 

Free registration is now open for the 2023 Smithsonian Institution’s National Education Summit, July 18-20. 

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