Don’t Pay for Student Loan Debt Relief

Have student loans? You’ve probably seen social media ads, received emails, or even opened a piece of mail from companies promising to reduce your monthly loan payments or cancel your loans.

But here’s the catch. These companies are doing something you can do yourself, but they’ll charge you a fee.

The U.S. Department of Education provides FREE assistance to help you:

  • Lower or cap your monthly loan payment;
  • Consolidate your federal loans;
  • See if you qualify for loan forgiveness;
  • Get advice on getting out of default

Help get the word out, and help protect your friends and family from student loan scams. Watch and share the video below, and visit studentaid.gov/repay to learn more.

Feedback: Disconnected Youth

Earlier today Secretary of Education Arne Duncan posted a piece on Medium on the need to connect more youth.

All young people — no matter where they grow up — need havens of hope and safety. They need skills to succeed in society and the workplace. They need positive adult role models, mentors, support and structure, as well as clear pathways to a bright future.

He goes on to say that we need an all-hands-on-deck effort to reconnect these youth:

If we care about our country’s future, we must work together – at the local, state and federal levels –to reconnect all young people with the education and career pathways that lead away from poverty, desperation and violence and toward a renewed sense of community, stability, and success.

Secretary Duncan asked to hear your ideas:

Now it’s your turn to weigh in and highlight success. Share with us how people and organizations are helping recconnect youth in your community. We want to hear what’s working and to share examples with communities across the country. To do what’s right for our young people, we have no time to lose.

We want to hear from you! Fill out the form below to tell us your story.

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Note: Stories submitted through this web form along with your first name may be featured on ED.gov and may be posted on ED's social media channels.

The Future of Higher Education in America


“The degree students truly can’t afford is the one they don’t complete, or that employers don’t value.”


More students are graduating college than ever before. But for too many students, the nation’s higher education system isn’t delivering what they need and deserve. Earlier today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined a new vision for higher education in America at a speech at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Duncan called for a higher ed system that will not only make college affordable, but also focuses on whether students are actually graduating in a timely way with a meaningful degree that sets them up for future success.

Duncan giving a speech at UMUBC

Secretary Duncan gave a speech outlining a vision for higher education in America.

Nearly half of today’s students who begin college do not graduate within six years. The consequences of taking on debt but never receiving a degree can be severe. Students who borrow for college but never graduate are three times more likely to default. In his speech today, Duncan said:

“There is a path to a higher education system that serves many more students much better. And continuing to make college more accessible and affordable – including more tuition-free and debt-free degrees – is part of that. But it’s only part.

“If we confine the discussion to cost and debt, we will have failed. Because we will have only found better ways to pay for a system that fails far too many of our students.”

Doing More to Focus on Outcomes

Over the past six and a half years, the Obama Administration has taken strong action to counteract the rising cost of higher education, expanding Pell Grants, and making student debt more manageable by expanding loan repayment options that cap payments based on income. The administration has also pursued executive actions and put forward policy proposals to address flaws in the higher education system and create incentives for all actors to focus on student outcomes.

“We must shift incentives at every level to focus on student success, not just access,” Duncan said during his speech.

When students win, everyone wins. But when they lose, every part of the system should share responsibility.

Today, only students, families and taxpayers lose when students don’t succeed– that makes no sense. Institutions must be held accountable when they get paid by students and taxpayers but fail to deliver a quality education. So should states and accreditors who are responsible to oversee them under the law.

By the same token, schools should be rewarded for doing the right thing – like taking on students who are struggling and helping them succeed.

Despite the Administration’s historic actions and the leadership of innovative institutions, much work remains to meet our goal of once again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

The Administration will continue to act within its power to control college costs and help students graduate on time with a meaningful degree. We need Congress, states, colleges and universities, and accreditors to join in that effort.

Secretary Arne Duncan Joins LinkedIn

Earlier today, Secretary Duncan shared his first post on LinkedIn. In it, Duncan talks about the future of the teaching profession and how in many places, education is being put back in the hands of teachers.


“There is no better resource for a school than teachers who are empowered and equipped to solve problems using their own talent and experience.”


“It does not take a federal initiative or a state program for teachers to solve the biggest challenges in education,” Duncan said in the post. “Yet, for teachers to truly lead large-scale transformation, state and local systems must be willing to provide teachers both time and training to exercise leadership. We, at the federal level, support and encourage their efforts.”

Duncan also highlighted the exciting things happening at Lehigh Senior High School (watch the video below):

Read the entire LinkedIn piece and share it with your followers on Twitter.

 

 

 

Una nueva guía para padres habilita la participación de las familias en la educación

Como padre de dos niños en las escuelas públicas, aprecio que las escuelas me informan con frecuencia sobre el progreso de mis hijos — a menudo hasta una vez por semana. Pero aun así a veces me pregunto cuál es el nivel de mis hijos en comparación con otros niños de su edad en el distrito, estado y país. Y aun como empleado del Departamento de Educación, no siempre sé cuáles preguntas debo hacer.

20150716-SPANISH-Parent-Check-List

Por esta razón estoy contento por la nueva guía para padres que hoy lanzamos en colaboración con America Achieves, el Consejo Nacional de La Raza, National PTA, y el United Negro College Fund. La guía incluye preguntas que los padres deben hacer y recursos que pueden utilizar los padres y cuidadores para asegurar que sus niños reciban la educación que merecen. La guía sugiere preguntas importantes que hacer, consejos para el éxito educativo y recursos para obtener más información.

La guía complementa el conjunto de derechos que el Departamento publicó recientemente, donde se expone lo que las familias deben esperar de la educación de sus hijos. Los derechos se aplican a toda la trayectoria educativa y cubren todos los niveles educativos, incluido el acceso a una educación preescolar de calidad; escuelas primarias y secundarias seguras, con buenos recursos y normas altas de rendimiento para los estudiantes; y acceso a una educación universitaria de calidad a un precio asequible.

La guía sugiere las siguientes “preguntas básicas” que los padres deben plantear a los educadores de sus hijos, incluyendo:

Calidad: ¿Recibe mi hijo una buena educación?

  • ¿Cómo me mantendrán ustedes regularmente informado sobre el progreso de mi hijo? ¿Cómo podemos colaborar juntos si mi hijo se retrasa?
  • ¿Está mi hijo a nivel de grado y en camino de preparación para la universidad y el trabajo? ¿Cómo lo sabré?

Listos para el éxito: ¿Estará mi hijo preparado para triunfar en el futuro?

  • ¿Cómo se medirá el progreso y la capacidad de mi hijo en materias como lectura, matemática, ciencia, artes, desarrollo social y emocional, y otras actividades y materias?
  • ¿Cuánto tiempo pasará mi hijo preparándose y tomando pruebas del estado y del distrito? ¿Cómo sabré yo y el maestro de mi hijo cómo utilizar los resultados para ayudar a mi hijo a avanzar?

Seguros y saludables: ¿Se cuida y mantiene seguro a mi hijo en la escuela?

  • ¿Qué programas existen para que la escuela sea un entorno seguro, enriquecedor y positivo? ¿Cuáles son las políticas de la escuela sobre la disciplina y para evitar el acoso en la escuela?
  • ¿Son saludables las comidas y meriendas proporcionadas en la escuela? ¿Cuánto tiempo se dedica al recreo o el ejercicio?

Buenos maestros: ¿Participa y aprende mi hijo en la escuela cada día?

  • ¿Cómo sabré si los maestros de mi hijo son eficaces?
  • ¿Cuánto tiempo pasan los maestros colaborando entre sí?
  • ¿Qué tipo de desarrollo profesional hay para los maestros aquí?

Equidad y justicia: ¿Tienen mi hijo y los demás niños de la escuela o programa, la misma oportunidad de triunfar y de ser tratados justamente?

  • Cómo asegura la escuela que todos los estudiantes reciban un trato justo? (Por ejemplo, ¿existen diferencias en las tasas de suspensión o expulsión por raza o sexo?).
  • ¿Ofrece la escuela a todos los estudiantes acceso a las clases que necesitan para prepararse para el éxito, incluidos los estudiantes de inglés y los estudiantes con necesidades especiales (por ejemplo, Álgebra I y II, clases para dotados y talentosos, laboratorios de ciencia, clases AP o IB, arte, y música)?

Guíese por la guía.

Cameron Brenchley es subsecretario adjunto de comunicaciones en el Departamento de Educación de EE.UU.

New Parent Checklist Empowers Families

As a parent of two children in public schools, I appreciate how often I get updates on how they’re doing in school—sometimes as often as once a week! But it often leaves me wondering how my kids are stacking up against other kids their age in the district, state and country. And even as an employee at the Department of Education, I’m not always sure what questions I should be asking.

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This is why I’m excited about a new parent checklist we’re releasing today in collaboration with America Achieves, National Council of La Raza, National PTA, and the United Negro College Fund. The parent checklist includes questions and resources that parents and caregivers can use to help ensure their children are getting the education they deserve. The checklist suggests key questions, tips for educational success and resources for more information.

The checklist follows the set of rights that the Department recently released outlining what families should be able to expect for their children’s education. The rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.

The checklist suggests these “key questions” that parents should pose to their child’s educators, including:

Quality: Is my child getting a great education?

  • How will you keep me informed about how my child is doing on a regular basis? How can we work together if my child falls behind?
  • Is my child on grade level, and on track to be ready for college and a career? How do I know?

Ready for Success: Will my child be prepared to succeed in whatever comes next?

  • How will you measure my child’s progress and ability in subjects including reading, math, science, the arts, social and emotional development, and other activities?
  • How much time will my child spend preparing for and taking state and district tests? How will my child’s teacher and I know how to use the results to help my child make progress?

Safe and Healthy: Is my child safe and cared for at school?

  • What programs are in place to ensure that the school is a safe, nurturing and positive environment? What are the discipline and bullying policies at the school?
  • Are the meals and snacks provided healthy? How much time is there for recess and/or exercise?

Great Teachers: Is my child engaged and learning every day?

  • How do I know my child’s teachers are effective?
  • How much time do teachers get to collaborate with one another?
  • What kind of professional development is available to teachers here?

Equity and Fairness: Does my child, and every child at my child’s school or program, have the opportunity to succeed and be treated fairly?

  • How does the school make sure that all students are treated fairly? (For example, are there any differences in suspension/expulsion rates by race or gender?)
  • Does the school offer all students access to the classes they need to prepare them for success, including English language learners and students with special needs (for example, Algebra I and II, gifted and talented classes, science labs, AP or IB classes, art, music)?

Check out the checklist for yourself.

Cameron Brenchley is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications at the U.S. Department of Education

Debt Relief for Corinthian Students—How We’re Working to Protect Taxpayers

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new debt relief process for Corinthian Colleges’ students, and new steps to protect students and taxpayers from abusive career colleges.

Corinthian Colleges, Inc.—which operated schools under the names Everest, Heald, and Wyotech—has been the target of consumer and taxpayer protection enforcement efforts by the federal government and other authorities. The Department of Education investigated and found that between 2010 and 2014, Heald College misrepresented the job placement rates of many of its programs. Investigations by other entities are ongoing. Over the past year, Corinthian sold off many of its schools, and the remaining campuses closed shortly before Corinthian went bankrupt.

Here are a few resources from the announcement:

There is a lot of information in the links above, and we’re working to address additional questions through student outreach, social media and our website.

Read More

For Corinthian Colleges Students: What You Need to Know about Debt Relief

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education announced new steps to protect students from abusive for-profit colleges, as well as a new debt relief process for students at Corinthian Colleges – which operated schools under the names Everest, Heald, and Wyotech.

Information for borrowers is available at the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website, at our new toll-free number for Corinthian students at (855) 279-6207, and from your loan servicer.

Background on what happened at Corinthian 

Corinthian Colleges, Inc. has been the target of consumer and taxpayer protection enforcement efforts by the federal government and other authorities. The Department of Education investigated and found that between 2010 and 2014, Heald College misrepresented the job placement rates of many of its programs. Investigations by other entities are ongoing. Over the past year, Corinthian sold off many of its schools, and the remaining campuses closed shortly before Corinthian went bankrupt.

We’re committed to making the debt relief process as simple, streamlined, and fair as possible. That’s why we’re taking several steps to help borrowers, including appointing a “special master” to help us create a straightforward process for debt relief and implement steps to reduce the burden on borrowers. 

Options for Debt Relief

Our Department is committed to helping students affected by the closure of these schools, or who believe they were victims of fraud by their school. Today, we announced next steps to support students who attended Corinthian schools. Here are answers to some common questions about debt relief, depending on your situation.

I attended a Corinthian school that closed

On April 27, Corinthian College closed its 30 remaining locations (see the list of those closed schools). Students who attended any of these closed schools any time after June 20, 2014 have two options:

  1. Apply for a closed school loan discharge
  2. Transfer earned credit to another institution to continue his or her education in a comparable program. (Students who select this option may still qualify for defense to repayment of previous loans – more information can be found below.)

A closed school discharge means that 100 percent of the federal student loans you took out to attend the school that closed may be forgiven, including a reimbursement of amounts you already paid back. You can find instructions and a form for seeking closed school debt relief here, or by contacting your loan servicer.

A closed school loan discharge may be an option for you if:

  • You did not finish your program at a Corinthian school
  • You did not already transfer your Corinthian credits to another school in a similar program (for instance, if you were taking a criminal justice program and you transferred to another criminal justice program, that would be similar)
  • You were attending the school when it closed, or withdrew no later than June 20, 2014. A closed school discharge normally only applies to students who withdrew (without completing their program) within 120 days of the school’s closing date, or were attending when the school closed. But for Corinthian students, the Secretary of Education has extended the timeframe to include any Corinthian student who withdrew from one of its closed schools on or after June 20, 2014

Please note that if you choose closed-school debt relief, you can’t transfer your credits to a comparable program at another institution.

Visit studentaid.gov for more information on closed-school loan discharge.

What if I want to transfer my credits?

If you transfer your credits to a similar program at another institution, you cannot request closed-school debt relief. However, if you believe you have a claim against your school under state law, such as fraud, you may still pursue debt relief based on borrower defense to repayment, as described below – even if you transfer your credits to another school

What if I need help? 

Visit the contact us page on the FSA website, or use any of the options listed above. Or, for further help, the Department is working with an independent group of organizations and institutions that are setting up a volunteer advising corps to help Corinthian students navigate the different options. Contact them to talk to a volunteer counselor. (Note that as the Department is not managing this initiative, it cannot endorse any advice that a student may receive.)

I believe I was a victim of fraud or another violation of state law at a Corinthian school (whether that school closed or not)

If you were a student at a Corinthian School—Everest, Heald, or Wyotech—and you believe you were a victim of fraud or other violations of state law by the school, you can make a claim for debt relief under a legal rule called “borrower defense to repayment.” This rule applies to all public, private and for-profit schools across the country, and requires students to show that they have a legal claim against their college.

If you were a student at a Corinthian school and you apply, or intend to apply, for borrower defense, you have the option to place your federal loans into forbearance (a special permission to stop payments) while your claim is being resolved, to ensure you do not fall behind on your loan. For students in default, you may request a stop to collection activity. However, interest will continue to accrue during the forbearance or stopped collections period. You may also decide to opt out of forbearance or stopped collections.

Visit studentaid.gov/Corinthian for more information on filing a borrower defense claim and on putting your loans into forbearance

For Certain Heald College Students

The Department has carried out an investigation and determined that Corinthian misrepresented job placement rates for a majority of programs at its Heald College campuses between 2010 and 2014. In an effort to simplify and speed up the process of applying for loan forgiveness, the Department has established that if you relied on those incorrect placement rates, you may be entitled to a discharge of their Federal Direct Student loans you took out to attend those programs through a streamlined process. That process can be done by filling out a straightforward attestation form. In addition, you may request to have your federal loans placed into forbearance or, for defaulted loans, to have collections stopped while your claim is reviewed.

Visit studentaid.gov/Corinthian for more information about how the Heald College findings may affect you.

Additional Information:

If you are a Corinthian student seeking debt relief of any type and didn’t get your question answered, please visit the FSA website or call our toll-free number, (855) 279-6207, and a staff member will provide the information you need.

Working to Protect Students and Borrowers as Corinthian Colleges Ceases Operation

Corinthian Colleges, Inc., today announced the effective end of all operations. Given the wide public interest in this matter, and our Departments involvement in it, I wanted to provide some background and explain what has happened, as I have done in the past.

Corinthian’s closure follows a series of enforcement actions by this Department and by states aimed at protecting students and safeguarding the interests of taxpayers. The Department took action in June 2014, when Corinthian failed to respond to the Departments repeated requests for answers about questionable practices, including concerns that Corinthian was using false and misleading job placement data to market its schools and recruit students, and that it might be changing student grade and attendance data to hide performance problems. To mitigate further damage, the Department intensified oversight of Corinthian, ultimately leading to an agreement that put Corinthian on the road to closure. As first step in that process, Corinthian sold 56 Everest and WyoTech brand campuses in November 2014.

As Corinthian was attempting to manage its closure plans, the Department’s enforcement actions against the school continued.  On April 14, the Department announced the results of one portion of its investigation – findings regarding Corinthian’s Heald campuses as it related to placement rate reporting.  Corinthian’s misrepresentations regarding placement rates were serious, and the Department initiated a fine action of approximately $30 million against the school.

At the time the Department first took action on Corinthian, approximately 72,000 students were enrolled; today, about 15,000 remain at 30 campuses under the control of Corinthian in five states. The closure decision was made by the company, following Corinthian’s failure to find a buyer for the remaining campuses willing to abide by conditions put in place by the Department to protect students, borrowers and taxpayers.

These actions are part of a larger effort by the Department of Education to take strong steps to protect the interest of students and taxpayers. The Obama Administration has led unprecedented efforts to protect consumers from predatory career colleges. It has established new gainful employment regulations to hold career training programs accountable and ensure that students are not saddled with debt they cannot repay. These regulations ensure that programs improve their outcomes for students or risk losing access to federal student aid. Last year, the Department announced a new federal interagency task force to help ensure proper oversight of for-profit institutions.

Taking strong actions on Corinthian has been an important part of that effort. Given today’s announcement by Corinthian, our first and most pressing concern is for the students who were enrolled. We will contact Corinthian students about their options, and will post additional information on our website. In addition, the Department will send staff from our Federal Student Aid team to as many campuses as possible to talk directly with students. We are working with state community college systems to ensure that students have options to continue their education. Students at schools that have closed may be eligible for closed-school loan discharges; students who were enrolled at Corinthian in the last 120 days will receive information about their options from the Department and from loan servicers.

We will do everything we can to ensure that Corinthian makes good on its obligations to students and taxpayers to the extent possible. In addition, we encourage Corinthian students to pursue debt relief with their state, especially as many states have tuition recovery funds. In all of this work, we ask states to prioritize students and their educational best interests.

As Secretary Duncan has said, we will continue to hold the career college industry accountable and demand reform for the good of students and taxpayers. We hope Congress will join us in that effort.

Students seeking better life options should be assured that their investments will pay off in increased knowledge, skills, and opportunity. As Corinthian closes its doors for good, the Department will continue to keep students at the heart of every decision we make and will communicate with Corinthian students about all their options going forward. What these students have experienced is unacceptable and we look forward to working with Congress in an effort to improve accountability and transparency in the career college industry. A college education remains the best investment a student can make in his or her future, and this Administration will continue to work to make a college degree affordable for all students, to hold colleges accountable, and to safeguard the interests of taxpayers.

 Ted Mitchell is the Under Secretary of Education

What is ESEA?

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The law represented a major new commitment by the federal government to “quality and equality” in educating our young people.

President Johnson, Johnson, seated at a table with his childhood schoolteacher, Kate Deadrich Loney, delivered remarks during the signing ceremony for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (Photo credit: White House Photographer Frank Wolfe/LBJ Library & Museum)

President Johnson, seated at a table with his childhood schoolteacher, Kate Deadrich Loney, delivered remarks during the signing ceremony for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. (Photo credit: White House Photographer Frank Wolfe/LBJ Library & Museum)

When President Johnson sent the bill to Congress, he urged that the country, “declare a national goal of full educational opportunity.”

The purpose of ESEA was to provide additional resources for vulnerable students. ESEA offered new grants to districts serving low-income students, federal grants for textbooks and library books, created special education centers, and created scholarships for low-income college students. The law also provided federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

In the 35 years following ESEA, the federal government increased the amount of resources dedicated to education. However, education remains a local issue. The federal government remained committed to ensuring that disadvantaged students had additional resources, however, because as a nation we were falling short of meeting the law’s original goal of full educational opportunity.

No Child Left Behind

In 2001, with strong bipartisan support, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to reauthorize ESEA, and President George W. Bush signed the law in January 2002.

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002. (Photo credit: Paul Morse/White House)

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002. (Photo credit: White House photographer Paul Morse)

NCLB put in place important new measures to expose achievement gaps, and started an important national dialogue on how to close them. By promoting accountability for the achievement of all students, the law has played an important role in protecting the civil rights of at-risk students.

However, while NCLB has played an important role in closing achievement gaps and requiring transparency, it also has significant flaws. It created incentives for states to lower their standards; emphasized punishing failure over rewarding success; focused on absolute scores, rather than recognizing growth and progress; and prescribed a pass-fail, one-size-fits-all series of interventions for schools that miss their state-established goals.

Teachers, parents, school district leaders, and state and federal elected officials from both parties have recognized that NCLB needs to be fixed. Congress was due to reauthorize the law in 2007, but has yet to do so.

Flexibility Under NCLB

In 2012, after six years without reauthorization, and with strong state and local consensus that many of NCLB’s outdated requirements were preventing progress, the Obama Administration began offering flexibility to states from some of the law’s most onerous provisions. To receive flexibility, states demonstrated that they had adopted and had plans to implement college and career-ready standards and assessments, put in place school accountability systems that focused on the lowest-performing schools and schools with the largest achievement gaps, and ensured that districts were implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.

The flexibility required states to continue to be transparent about their achievement gaps, but provided schools and districts greater flexibility in the actions they take to address those gaps.. Today, 43 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico have flexibility from NCLB.

Looking Ahead

President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan remain committed to reauthorizing ESEA to ensure that all young people are prepared to succeed in college and careers, that historically underserved populations are protected, and that schools, principals, and teachers have the resources they need to succeed.

President Obama poses with students at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama poses with students at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.”
(Photo credit: White House photographer Pete Souza)

Some have suggested that the new version of ESEA, which would replace NCLB, should roll back the accountability requirements for states, districts and schools, and allow states to shift funds from lower-income to higher-income districts. With graduation rates at an all-time high and improving for all groups of students, such changes would turn back the clock on the progress our country has made in closing achievement gaps.

In January 2015, Secretary Duncan laid out the Administration’s vision for a new ESEA. The vision includes an ESEA that expands access to high-quality preschool; ensures that parents and teachers have information about how their children are doing every year; gives teachers and principals the resources and support they need; encourages schools and districts to create innovative new solutions to problems; provides for strong and equitable investment in high-poverty schools and districts; and ensures that action will be taken where students need more support to achieve, including in the lowest-performing schools. Learn more about the new vision here.

Interested in receiving the latest ESEA news in your inbox? Sign up for email updates.

A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America

All parents hope their child will start school ready for success. Unfortunately, not every parent can find the high-quality early learning opportunity that sets their child up for success.

Earlier today the U.S. Department of Education released a new report outlining the unmet need for high-quality early learning programs in America. Roughly 6 in 10 four-year-olds are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, and even fewer are enrolled in the highest quality programs.

Unmet Need

While both states and the federal government invest in early learning, these efforts have fallen short of what is needed to ensure that all children can access a high-quality early education that will prepare them for success.

Significant new investments in high-quality early education are necessary to help states, local communities, and parents close the readiness gap that exists between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers.

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For Latino children, the unmet need is especially great. While Latinos are the fastest growing and largest minority group in the United States, making up a quarter of 3- and 4-year-olds, Latinos demonstrate the lowest preschool participation rates of any major ethnicity or race.

And while most children who have access to preschool attend moderate-quality programs, African- American children and children from low-income families are the most likely to attend low- quality preschool programs and are the least likely to attend high-quality preschool programs.

Building on Progress

To address the unmet need for high-quality preschool, states and the federal government have invested in initiatives to expand access. These investments provide a strong base upon which we can build voluntary, universal access to high-quality early education that will prepare our nation’s students for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Over the past decade, governors from both political parties have pushed for the creation
and expansion of publicly funded preschool programs. Since 2003, states have increased
their investment in preschool by more than 200 percent.

The federal government has also worked to improve the quality and expand early learning through the Head Start program. Twenty states have also received support through the Early Learning Challenge program, which helped states improve early childhood workforce preparation and training, and strengthened health services and family engagement.

Congress took an important step in 2014 to address inequities in access to high-quality preschool by supporting the Preschool Development Grants program, a 4-year, federal-state partnership to expand the number of children enrolled in high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities. Thirty-five states and Puerto Rico applied, but due — in part — to limited funding, only 18 grants were awarded.

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Preschool Development Grants will not cover every child in the funded states; however, these states will be another step closer to the goal of expanding access to high-quality early learning across the country. Over the 4-year grant period, and with continued funding from Congress, these states are expecting to enroll an additional 177,000 children in high-quality preschool programs, which will help put children on a path to success in school and in life.

Support for Early Learning

Over the last several years, an impressive coalition of education, business, law enforcement, military, child advocacy groups, and faith-based leaders have joined together to support the expansion of high-quality preschool programs. These groups recognize that investing in high-quality preschool means that more students will graduate from high school, go to college or join the armed or public services, and become contributing, productive members of our society with fewer youth and adults entering the justice system.

The evidence supporting early learning is clear. Research shows that children who participate in high-quality preschool programs have better health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes than those who do not participate.

Expanding early learning — including high-quality preschool — provides society with a return on investment of $8.60 for every $1 spent. About half of the return on investment originates from increased earnings for children when they grow up.

Moving Forward

This year, as Congress seeks to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our nation is at critical moment. Congress can honor this important legacy and moral imperative – as our nation observes ESEA’s 50th anniversary – by reauthorizing a strong education law. This new law must reflect real equity of opportunity, starting with our youngest children.

By making a significant investment in preschool a key component of ESEA, we can help America live up to its highest ideals, as a place with real equity of opportunity. Congress has a chance to honor and extend the civil rights legacy of our education law by providing all children — no matter where they live or how much money their parents earn — an equal opportunity to begin school ready to succeed.

Secretary Duncan: “Step Up and Fund Education”

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On Friday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Edwin M. Stanton Elementary in Philadelphia to highlight the need to support teachers and students by investing in our nation’s schools.

During the visit, Duncan joined U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Superintendent of Philadelphia schools Dr. William Hite, and acting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera for a community roundtable discussion. Neighborhood residents, parents and teachers talked about how the community came together to keep the small school from closing a few years prior.

Secretary Duncan highlighted the need for equitable education spending in states, and called on Pennsylvania to “step up and fund education.” Recent data shows that students from low-income families in 23 states are being shortchanged when it comes to state and local education funding. In these states, districts serving the highest percentage of students from low-income families are spending fewer state and local dollars per pupil than districts that have fewer students in poverty.

Secretary Duncan visited a Stanton classroom, where students were holding a mock trial for Goldilocks. (Photo credit: Joshua Hoover/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan visited a Stanton classroom, where students were holding a mock trial for Goldilocks. (Photo credit: Joshua Hoover/U.S. Department of Education)

Twenty states also have school districts that spend fewer state and local dollars on districts with a high percentage of minority students, than they do on districts with fewer minority students.

The good news is that nothing is preventing these states from funding education more equitably, and they could quickly join the dozens of states that are ensuring that low-income students are getting the resources and support they need to succeed.

All of us have a role to play when it comes to ensuring that students from low-income families aren’t shortchanged. At the federal level, we’re ready to work with Congress to close the federal loophole that allows districts to allocate funds inequitably.

Recently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out his vision for a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including the idea that opportunity for every child needs to be part of our national conscience.

Read more about our recent data and watch highlights of the visit below: