USED & White House
Updates from the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans
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The Connector

December 2021

Updates from the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans

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Black History Month Events

Opening the Social Emotional Safety Net: SEL Practices for the Black School Community Roundtable

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2.-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time

Join the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans (Initiative) for our AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable titled “Opening the Social Emotional Safety Net: SEL Practices for the Black School Community.” The roundtable will feature experts from the field that will discuss culturally competent practices that support the social emotional learning of Black students.

Panelists include:

  • Fadhilika Atiba-Weza, executive director, National Alliance of Black School Educators
  • Bloodine Barthelus, director of practice innovations, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
  • Brandon Cahee, senior program/policy analyst for African American Outreach, National Education Association
  • Carlene Reid, education program specialist, Office of Special Education Programs, Research to Practice Division , Elementary and Middle School Team, U.S. Department of Education

Register here.

Planning Team:

  • Alexandra Bolden, Ed.S., Education Program Specialist, OPE
  • Bryan Hale, Ed.D., School Ambassador Fellowship Coordinator, Effective Educator Development Division, OESE
  • Cynthia O’Brien, Program Liaison, School Ambassador Fellowship Program, OESE
  • Monique Toussaint, Senior Advisor, Initiative



Inside IES research blog series

Date: Feb. 1 - 28

Institute of Education Sciences’ Inside IES Research blog series will feature four grantees and fellows as part of its diversion, equity, inclusion, accessibility (DEIA) series. Two interviews will focus on black researchers and two topical posts will focus on black teachers and students:



Black Voices in Education Research: Supporting Black Students Across the Education Sciences

Date: Tuesday,  February 15,  2-3 p.m. Eastern Time

The Initiative and IES are excited to launch a new joint speaker series, “Black Voices in Education Research.” The first session, “Supporting Black Students Across the Education Sciences” features IES-affiliated researchers who will discuss how the field of education sciences (including statistics, research, evaluation, and training) can support education equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for Black students from early childhood until their chosen career. 

Panelists include:

  • James Huguley, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and associate professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.
  • Nicole Patton Terry, professor of education, School of Teacher Education, director of the Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University.
  • Jamie Pearson, assistant professor of special education, North Carolina State University, School of Education.

Register here.



Breaking Barriers: A Systemic Approach to Support Black Student Mental Health

Date: Monday, Feb. 28, 2 p.m. Eastern Time

Join the Initiative for our AfAmEd Connector virtual roundtable titled “Breaking Barriers: A Systemic Approach to Support Black Student Mental Health.” The roundtable will feature experts from the field that will discuss culturally competent best practices to support the mental health of Black students.


Updates From the Department


Secretary Cardona’s priorities

On Jan. 27, Secretary Cardona delivered a major speech outlining ED’s priorities and his vision for education. In it, the Secretary laid out his vision for continuing to support students, families, educators, and schools through pandemic recovery, while making investments that will improve our education system for generations to come.  A replay can be viewed on ED’s YouTube channel.

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ED’s major accomplishments in 2021

The Department’s major accomplishments in the past year include:

  • Protecting schools from COVID-19.
  • Distributing billions in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.
  • Revamping the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
  • Supporting equity in schools.

As we mark a busy and productive first year of the Biden Administration, here are 10 ways ED has served students, teachers, and  school communities since Jan.  20, 2021. We’re very proud to work on behalf of students, teachers, staff, and school communities across the country, and we’re looking forward to continuing that work this year & beyond.

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ED solicits public comments on the Project Prevent Grant Program

On Jan. 26, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration's efforts to prevent and reduce gun crime and other forms of community violence, the Department released the notice of proposed priorities, definition, and requirements for its Project Prevent discretionary grant program and launched the 30-day public comment period.

Comment on community schools

The Department  released the notice of proposed priorities, definitions, and requirements for the Full-Service Community Schools competitive grant program and launched a 30-day public comment period. Community schools can meet student social, emotional, and academic needs through after-school and summer learning that could include STEM enrichment opportunities, as well as mental and physical health services. To submit comments about these priorities, the definition, and requirements, see the Federal Register notice; comments are due by Feb. 11, 2022.


American Rescue Plan — various education levels

In a Dec. 16, 2021 Dear Colleague letter, Secretary Cardona outlined (1) evidence-based and promising short- and long-term strategies for addressing teacher and staff shortages that may be funded through the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund and (2) examples of how ARP and past relief funding are already being used to attract and retain teachers and staff.

Separately, the Department shared that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is giving states the option of waiving a portion of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test requiring applicants to identify “under the hood” engine components, with the aim of alleviating the school bus driver labor shortage.

The Department also issued a FAQ supplement on using ESSER and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic and a revised Notice of Proposed Requirements (NPR) and updated FAQs for the ARP’s Maintenance of Equity provisions.

The Department’s Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) Transparency Portal now displays award and expenditure data by state for all four major ESF programs: ESSER, the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) Program, the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund, and GEER.

American Rescue Plan — K-12

On Jan. 18, the Department announced that every state educational agency (SEA) has received approval of their ARP ESSER plan.  As a result, the Department has distributed all $122 billion of ARP ESSER funding to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  These funds are critical to helping states and districts keep schools open for safe in-person learning during the pandemic, including responding to recent challenges arising from the omicron variant.

Fact sheets are available for each state’s ARP ESSER plan, outlining how each state will use their funding.  Also, the Department’s website includes links to districts’ plans.  Highlights from across the country demonstrate the efforts of SEAs and districts to address the needs of their schools with ventilation improvements, staff hiring and retention, mental health services, high-dosage tutoring programs, after-school and summer learning partnerships, and more.

As SEAs amend their plans to reflect additional information and evolving strategies, updated plans will be posted online.

American Rescue Plan — higher education

On Jan.  20, the Department announced more resources for students and institutions to help reduce barriers to success in higher education.  This includes an additional $198 million in ARP funds to primarily support community colleges and other institutions with the greatest needs. These institutions are able to apply for these funds and the Department will be releasing guidance on how institutions can use these new and existing federal funds to meet students’ basic needs, such as housing and food security, and how leading colleges are accomplishing that goal. The Department also will release guidance on how institutions can use existing data to connect students to other federal resources, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program. Dr. Biden and Secretary Cardona outlined these actions at Bergen Community College in New Jersey, which has used federal pandemic relief funds to support its students’ basic needs, including providing access to childcare on campus for student parents, discharging student debts so students may remain and reenroll, and bolstering counseling programs.

Black male student in mask with hand raised at desk

Higher education update

As 2021 came to a close, the Department announced a 90-day extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections -- through May 1, 2022.  This extension will allow the Administration to fully assess the impacts of the omicron variant on borrowers and give borrowers more time to plan for the resumption of payments and reduce their risk of delinquency and default after restart.  The agency will continue its work to transition borrowers back into repayment, including by improving student loan servicing (President Biden’s statement and video and Department’s Twitter thread).

The pause will help 41 million borrowers save $5 billion per month.  Borrowers are encouraged to use this time to ensure their contract information is up-to-date and consider enrolling in electronic debit and income-based repayments plans.  More information can be found at

This action is one in a series of steps the Administration has taken to date to support students and borrowers, including providing nearly $13 billion in targeted loan relief to over 640,000 borrowers.

Also, the Affordability and Student Loans negotiated rulemaking committee reached consensus on four of the Department’s regulatory proposals: making it easier for borrowers with a severe disability to have their federal loans forgiven; eliminating interest capitalization on federal loans in some events; streamlining loan discharges for borrowers whose institutions falsely certified that they were eligible for the loan; and implementing Congress’ restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students.

Plus, the Department announced its intention to establish an Institutional and Programmatic Eligibility negotiated rulemaking committee, requested nominations for individual negotiators and advisors, and set a schedule for committee meetings.

Additionally, President Biden signed an Executive Order on December 13 to promote fiscal stewardship by improving the federal government’s delivery of services to the American people.  The order directs 17 agencies to take 36 actions that aim to improve people’s lives and make it easier and simpler to access government services and benefits.  The order also creates a sustained, cross-governmental service delivery process that aligns to the moments that matter most in people’s lives (White House fact sheet and Secretary Cardona’s statement).

Under the order, for the one in six Americans -- or approximately 45 million people -- who are currently managing their student loans, the Department of Education will make sure

  • Direct Loan borrowers only need to navigate to a single repayment portal on to apply for, manage, and repay their loans;
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) candidates, including civil servants and active duty servicemembers, are able to apply with less paperwork and without having to fill out forms with information they have already provided to the federal government previously; and
  • Students and borrowers can receive relevant recommendations for other government benefits and services they may qualify for, such as healthcare subsidies, broadband support, and food assistance, thereby lowering economic barriers to postsecondary education completion.

Student News and Opportunities

black students in mask in class working

HBCU Scholar Recognition Program application nomination period

The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Development through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU Initiative) is excited to announce the release of their 2022 HBCU Scholar Recognition Program Application.

The nomination period is open now until, March 22, 2022. They are looking for the best and brightest HBCU student leaders to participate in this prestigious program! This highly competitive recognition program is open to current HBCU students of all majors and classifications. Students accepted into the program will work with the HBCU Initiative for one academic school year and be immersed in an intensive experience working closely with one another and Initiative partners from wide range of disciplines.

More information on the recognition program and application requirements can be found here.

black students with globe and passport in hand

Bringing the world to your campus: Education, service, and career pathways with the Peace Corps

On Feb. 8 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, join the Peace Corps to learn more about how to engage with various Peace Corps programs to enhance your efforts to build the intercultural competencies of your students! In this session, you will find out more about Peace Corps and how its mission can help to bring global, diverse perspectives to your campus. Click here for more information. Register today.

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ACHP Internship Opportunity

Are you, or do you know of, a student interested in the preservation, enhancement, and sustainable use of our nation’s diverse historic resources? The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) in Washington, D.C., has internship opportunities available for undergraduate or graduate students, as well as individuals at an early stage of their career and professional development. A small, independent federal agency, the ACHP oversees the historic preservation review process for federal projects and manage

About the Author

The U.S. Department of Education is the agency of the federal government that establishes policy for, administers and coordinates most federal assistance to education. It assists the president in executing his education policies for the nation and in implementing laws enacted by Congress. The Department's mission is to serve America's students-to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.