Dear Colleagues:

This week, Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden launched their “Road to Success Back to School Bus Tour” . The tour kicked off in Tennessee with a visit highlighting ways states and districts are recruiting and preparing qualified, profession-ready educators into the classroom. Later in the week, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff joined the Secretary in Pennsylvania with visits highlighting how community schools are helping students recover academically and get the mental health supports they need, celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and raise awareness about the Administration’s actions to provide debt relief to millions, including teachers and administrators through Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

1. Department of Education Releases Plans to Distribute First Billion-Dollar Funding Under Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

Following the tragic mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas- President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act . The legislation authorizes $1 billion in funding for state-administered grant competitions for local schools under Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. On Thursday, the Department of Education released  plans to distribute its first billion-dollar funding batch under the law and instructed states to prioritize impoverished schools when they allocate their initial share of violence reduction money in the coming months.

Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona encouraged state leaders to prioritized grant applications that commit to comprehensive evidence based strategies and cautioned against using the money solely to harden school security:

“There is some research that shows that visible security measures alone — and without efforts to promote student learning, growth and positive learning environments — may have detrimental effects, and some of these measures are unlikely to reduce or eliminate serious incidents…The  Department encourages States and [local educational agencies] to select developmentally and culturally appropriate and trauma-informed emergency training, security measures, and other schoolwide policies.”

The Department noted that they are committed to providing technical assistance to States and LEAs to use these funds in evidence-based ways that build the trusting and inclusive learning environments we all want for all students.

2. Department of Education Awards Project SERV Grants to HBCUs

On Thursday, the Department of Education announced that two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were awarded emergency funding by way of the   Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grants to strengthen campus security and support student mental health. Tougaloo College in Mississippi was awarded more than $420,000 and Fayetteville State University in North Carolina received more than $80,000 in grants.

In a statement , Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona denounced the threats against HBCUs saying, “As Secretary of Education, I want to make it abundantly clear that the Biden-Harris Administration will not tolerate bomb threats or any efforts to terrorize students of color.”The Secretary vowed to use a “whole-of-government approach” to ensure HBCU leaders can access federal resources “to respond to threats of violence, shore up campus security, expand their infrastructure and capacity, and provide students with the safe and nurturing learning environments that HBCUs are known for.”

The department is currently working with HBCUs to support them in the grant application process and expedite applications to get funds to the schools.

3. In the States

DOJ Settles with Cedar Rapids Community School District:

This week, the Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with Cedar Rapids Community School District in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A Department of Justice investigation found that the district “inappropriately and repeatedly secluded and restrained students with disabilities as early as kindergarten,” leading to s hundreds of hours of instructional time lost.

In a statement,  Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said:

“Students with disabilities should not be subjected to discriminatory and abusive seclusion and restraint practices that deny them equal access to education…When schools isolate and unlawfully restrain children with disabilities, rather than provide them with the supports needed for success in the classroom, they violate the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Under the settlement agreement, the school district will implement reforms needed to ensure that its practices do not discriminate against students with disabilities.

Shortage Showcase, Milwaukee Public Schools:

The largest school district in the state of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Public School system,  started the school year with over 200 vacant teaching positions. Wisconsin Policy Forum senior researcher Sarah Shaw points to a 20-percent decline in individuals earning a bachelor’s degree in education and full teaching certification as a major issue.

“Right now, there are not enough graduates from education programs, to be able to fill the projected teacher openings. And those projected teacher openings are projected both thinking about where our teachers coming in, but also how quickly our teachers, leaving the profession, especially as we have an aging Baby Boomer population,” said Shaw.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum says they have projected they would be around 2,500 teacher openings a year in southeastern Wisconsin with only about 2,000 graduates to fill those jobs. That leaves at least 500 open teaching positions every year to be filled from elsewhere.

Angela Harris, chair of the Black Educator Caucus for Milwaukee Public Schools highlighted the challenges that many students would face as they start the school year likely without a fully certified teacher in their classroom:

“When we talk about teacher shortages, we have to understand that it is going to affect our students academically because they aren’t going to have that teacher of record in the classroom that they are going to build a long-term relationship with that is coming into that classroom with the knowledge of the curriculum that they are teaching.”

The teacher shortage goes beyond just Milwaukee. In August, the Madison School District was down 141 teachers, Racine Unified School district had 73 teacher vacancies, and the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District was down 23 teachers.

4. New Resources for Educators

  • AASA , The School Superintendents Association, released the results of survey examining the critical shortage of educators across the nation. Among the 910 responses from school district leaders, AASA found 84.7% said the educator shortage is driven by districts not receiving enough applications
  • Learning Policy Institute released the results of a study on the relationship between Principal learning opportunities and key outcomes for the teachers and students in their schools.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Until next time, see you on Twitter!