U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Schools on Ensuring Equity and Providing Behavioral Supports to Students with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) today issued guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) that emphasizes the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need them. It also clarifies that the repeated use of disciplinary actions may suggest that children with disabilities may not be receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and supports. When schools fail to consider and provide for needed behavioral supports through the Individualized Education Program (IEP), it is likely to result in children not receiving the free appropriate public education to which they are entitled under federal law.

“All students, including those with disabilities, should have the supports and equitable educational opportunities they need to be successful in school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “It’s our duty as parents and educators to ensure that children who show up at school to learn get the maximum out of their educational experience. This guidance will help schools create a safe, supportive learning environment for those students who need additional behavioral supports and services to help them thrive.”

Full story of behavioral supports for disability students at ed.gov

Education Department Awards $144 Million in TRIO Talent Search Grants to Improve College Readiness

The U.S. Department of Education announced the award of $144 million for 459 new grant awards under the Talent Search program.  Commemorating 51 years since its inception, in 2016, these five-year grants will assist more than 300,000 youth across 49 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau in gaining the skills needed to successfully graduate high school and prepare for college. Of the 459 applicants who competed successfully in the FY 2016 competition, 418 applicants will begin new awards in the 2016-2017 project year and future awards will be made to 41 applicants with one or more years remaining on their current Talent Search grants.  This year’s grant competition marked the first year of encouraging evidence-based strategies for both secondary completion and postsecondary enrollment.

“For the past five decades, the Talent Search program has propelled more than 11 million students towards postsecondary success,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “Because of the Talent Search program thousands of students, every year, enhance their ability to successfully transition from high school to college.”

Full story of TRIO talent search grants at ed.gov

FACT SHEET: Expanding Access to High-Quality Early Learning

“A high-quality early education can unlock the potential in every child and ensure that all children start kindergarten prepared for success. Because of historic investments from the Obama Administration, states and cities, more children—particularly those who have been historically underserved—now have access to high-quality early learning. We must continue our collective work so that all children have the foundation they need to thrive in school and beyond.” – U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr.

High-quality preschool is a critical means of expanding educational equity and opportunity by giving every child a strong start. Studies show that attending high-quality early education can result in children building a solid foundation for achieving the academic, health and social outcomes that are of benefit to individual families and to the country as a whole. Children who attend these programs are more likely to do well in school, find good jobs and succeed in their careers than those who don’t. And they are less likely to drop out of high school, have interactions with the criminal justice system or experience teen pregnancy. Research has shown that taxpayers receive a high average return on investments in high-quality early childhood education relative to a number of other interventions—particularly those made later in a child’s development—with savings in areas like improved educational outcomes, increased labor productivity and a reduction in crime.

Full story of access to higher quality learning at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.”

Over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. The most common complaint concerns academic and behavioral difficulties students with ADHD experience at school when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services.

Full story of guidance on civil rights of students with ADHD at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Takes Actions to Address Religious Discrimination

As part of ongoing efforts to encourage respect for students of all faiths and beliefs, the U.S. Department of Education today shared a series of actions that confront discrimination and promote inclusive school environments.

The steps include a new website on religious discrimination, an updated civil rights complaint form, an expanded survey of America’s public schools on religious-based bullying, technical assistance for schools, and recent outreach on confronting religious harassment in education.

“Students of all religions should feel safe, welcome and valued in our nation’s schools,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “We will continue to work with schools and communities to stop discrimination and harassment so that all students have an equal opportunity to participate in school no matter who they are, where they come from or which faith, if any, they subscribe to.”

Full story of Department of Education addressing religious discrimination at ed.gov

Education Department Proposes Rule on State Authorization of Postsecondary Distance Education, Foreign Locations

The U.S. Department of Education today proposed regulations that seek to improve oversight and protect more than 5.5 million distance education students at degree-granting institutionsincluding nearly 3 million exclusively online students by clarifying the state authorization requirements for postsecondary distance education.

To ensure that institutions offering distance education are legally authorized and monitored by states, as required by the Higher Education Act, the proposed regulations clarify state authorization requirements for institutions to participate in the Department’s federal student aid programs. The proposed regulations also address state and federal oversight of American colleges operating in foreign locations worldwide.

“These proposed regulations achieve an important balance between accountability and flexibility, and in so doing create better protections for students and taxpayers,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. ”Additionally, these regulations promote and clarify state authorization procedures, further strengthening the integrity of federal financial aid programs.”

Full story of state authorization of post-secondary distance education at ed.gov

Education Department to Implement Improved Customer Service and Enhanced Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

As part of a continued effort to implement a new vision for student loan servicing that ensures the more than 40 million Americans with student loan debt get high-quality customer service and fair treatment as they repay their loans, the U.S. Department of Education today outlined a series of enhanced protections and customer service standards that will guide the future of federal student loan servicing practices. The policies were outlined in a memorandum from U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell to Federal Student Aid (FSA), which will implement the policy directives to strengthen student loan servicing during the ongoing procurement process. These policies were developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“Today’s policy directive is a big win for tens of millions of borrowers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. ”It will help ensure that student loan borrowers get the service they deserve.” While the majority of federal student loan borrowers continue to successfully repay their student loans, there are still too many borrowers who are struggling, or who may be at risk of defaulting on their loans. Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have worked hard to keep college affordable and help student loan borrowers manage their debt. In March 2015, as part of that effort, the President unveiled a Student Aid Bill of Rightsdirecting federal agencies to work together on a series of actions to help borrowers manage their student debt.

Full story of ED improving customer service for student loan borrows at ed.gov

Murphy, Fudge Introduce Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (Ohio-11), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on Tuesday introduced the Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016 to promote diversity in schools. The bill builds on President Obama’s FY 2017 Stronger Together budget proposal, and consists of a voluntary program to support the development and expansion of new and existing community-driven strategies to increase diversity in America’s schools. In June, Murphy joined U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. at an event in the U.S. Capitol to discuss the opportunity for increased diversity in schools and communities to drive positive student outcomes in school and in life.

An April 2016 Government Accountability Office report found that the number of socioeconomic and racially segregated schools is increasing, negatively impacting students nationwide. The data shows that poor, segregated schools receive fewer resources, offer students fewer educational opportunities and take more disciplinary actions. Expanding socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools will reverse these troubling trends and help future generations of students receive the education they deserve. In fact, students from low-income households who attend diverse schools are nearly 70 percent more likely to attend college than students from low-income households who attend high-poverty schools. The Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016 provides planning and implementation grants to help school districts find voluntary local solutions, implement new strategies, and expand existing diversity initiatives.

Full story on Stronger Together School Diversity Act at ed.gov

U.S. Education Department Settles Sexual Assault Case with Minot State University, N.D.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Minot State University, North Dakota, after finding the university in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

OCR found that the university failed to process a complaint brought by a former student (Student A) who reported that during her time at the school, she had been sexually assaulted for over two years by one of her professors. Despite the serious nature of the complaint, OCR determined that Minot State did not take any steps to address the effects of the hostile environment to which the student reported she had been subjected.

“Minot State University has committed to take critically necessary steps to bring its practices, and its policies, into compliance with Title IX, correcting significant safety gaps that had persisted for too long for its students,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I am grateful for the university’s commitment to satisfying its students’ civil rights going forward.”

Full story of the sexual assault case with Minot State University at ed.gov

Report: Increases in Spending on Corrections Far Outpace Education

State and local spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of funding for public education for preschool through grade P-12 education in the last three decades, a new analysis by the U.S. Department of Education found.

Released today, the report, Trends in State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education, notes that even when population changes are factored in, 23 states increased per capita spending on corrections at more than double the rate of increases in per-pupil P-12 spending. Seven states—Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia—increased their corrections budgets more than five times as fast as they did their allocations for P-12 public education. The report also paints a particularly stark picture of higher education spending across the country at a time when postsecondary education matters more than ever. Since 1990, state and local spending on higher education has been largely flat while spending on corrections has increased 89 percent.

“Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation’s priorities that should be revisited,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “For far too long, systems in this country have continued to perpetuate inequity. We must choose to make more investments in our children’s future. We need to invest more in prevention than in punishment, to invest more in schools, not prisons.”

Full story of spending on corrections for education at ed.gov