Lots of Pre-Trump Activity from the Department of Education
You have to love the Department of Education, which seems undaunted by the prospect of a new administration. In the past several weeks they have finalized and published the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability regulations and the final regulations for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) aimed at promoting equity. They have also released two reports highlighting the challenges and achievements of the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and announced two new grant completions.
At best, the new regulations might be faced with benign neglect under a Trump-era Department of Education. And there are some indications that the Office of Civil Rights will be reigned in. The new grant completions will probably move forward. The Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program was authorized in ESSA. This is the successor to the Obama Administration’s Investing in Innovation grant program (i3).
EIR is designed to support state and district efforts to develop, implement and take to scale innovative and evidence-based projects. The kicker here is that grants can only be awarded if Congress makes an appropriation for the program. Grant applications are due April 13, 2017, about the same time as the Continuing Resolution for FY2017 expires.
The Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities grant competition should be okay – for at least one year, since the Department is funding it with FY16 funds. Since FY 2012, the Department has been allowed to reserve up to 5% of the SIG appropriations to carry out activities to build state and LEA capacity to implement the SIG program effectively.
This new grant will support districts and their communities in preparing to implement innovative, comprehensive, collaborative, and locally-driven strategies to increase diversity in schools. The Department will invest $12 million in up to 20 districts or groups of districts to fund the development of blueprints for increasing socioeconomic diversity in schools and complete pre-implementation activities focused on student diversity. The competition is open through February 3, 2017. While increasing school diversity may not be a Trump administration priority, it hardly seems worth the trouble to scrap such a small program.
Then There is Congress…
It’s harder to love Congress. In typical down to the wire fashion, Congress finally decided against a full-blown budget debate, instead passing another Continuing Resolution. The House passed its version on December 8 and promptly adjourned. Senate Democrats finally got their troops in line and the Senate passed the CR on December 9. The President signed the legislation before the midnight December 9 deadline that would have seen the first CR expire. The new CR extends funding for the operations of federal agencies through April 28, 2017. It funds the government at $1.07 trillion, just a bit more than the $1.067 trillion that was included in the original CR. In order to keep total spending within the FY17 budget cap, the legislation contains a 0.19% across-the-board cut for all agencies.