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The Department of Education has released a document outlining their plan to increase “equity” in U.S. schools.
The 19-page report explains the Education Department’s plan to implement President Biden’s “Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” The president’s administration has been tasked with strategizing equitable outcomes via intervention by the federal government into institutions perceived as biased.
“As we enter a new era of possibility for our nation, education must be at the forefront of our recovery, rebuilding and resiliency efforts,” the department wrote in the report. “To meet this potential, our nation’s education system must reckon with and address the long-standing disparities that students from underserved communities face in achieving equal education opportunity.”
The department said it would evaluate how state and local governments and other entities plan to integrate equity into their grant proposals. The department awards millions in grants nationwide.
“To this end, the Department intends to revise its regulations on the selection criteria used to evaluate applications submitted in a grant competition to allow nonfederal peer reviewers to assess the way in which an applicant integrates equity into its proposed project,” the department wrote.
The report states that funding to schools educating low-income and racial minority students will be reappropriated.
“Community colleges, state regional universities, and HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs including Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), HSIs, AANAPISIs, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNHs), and Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs) – some of the nation’s most inclusive colleges – disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color, but typically receive less education revenue per student than four-year flagship institutions.”
Applications for government student loans will also be simplified, the department reported. Citing a decline in college applications, the department is streamlining the FAFSA system to prevent “intimidation.”
Seeking greater racial representation, the Education Department will begin “including collecting race, ethnicity and gender data on FAFSA applicants for the first time and eliminating questions about drug convictions.”
Additionally, the government will be expanding funding for Pell Grants, claiming they are a key method for lower-income students to attend university.
However, the department notes that “the value has diminished as college prices continue to rise. The president has committed to doubling the maximum Pell Grant.”
The Education Department will also be utilizing an “Equity Dashboard” program to further inform their decision-making. This “dashboard” will also serve as a “single source of truth” for government officials.
“The dashboard is meant to […] provide the Department and other stakeholders a ‘single source of truth’ accompanied by statistically appropriate, plain language interpretations,” the department wrote.
After more than a year of review, more than 90 federal agencies, including all major Cabinet departments, were releasing their “equity action plans” on Thursday.
Education efforts are among hundreds of strategies and commitments the Biden administration was announcing Thursday. They are the product of an executive order that President Joe Biden signed hours after taking office with the goal of advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities across the federal government.
The Justice Department is improving language access to its programs to help people with limited English proficiency better report crimes. The Interior Department is providing technical assistance to Native American tribes to help them apply for grants. The Energy Department is helping low-income households access programs to weatherize their homes and save energy.