US Dept. of Education Unveils Equity Action Plan

The U.S. Department of Education released a new equity action plan last week aimed at advancing racial equity, aiding pandemic recovery, and serving marginalized student communities.

The plan includes the following efforts, according to an EDU press release:


Prioritizing access to and completion of an education beyond high school.Postsecondary attainment continues to be inequitably available for traditionally underserved populations as accessibility, affordability, and equitable funding across institutions remain barriers to earning a postsecondary degree or certificate. To improve access and affordability, the Department will review and improve its model used to verify financial aid applicants. The Department also intends to undertake a comprehensive approach to provide for equitable funding by: investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities,and minority-serving institutions such as Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Predominantly Black Institutions, and Asian American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, community colleges, and other under-resourced public institutions; supporting institutions, systems, and states to raise completion rates for underserved students; and sponsoring a new vision of college excellence that makes inclusivity a marker of prestige.


Ensuring equitable impact of American Rescue Plan's $130 billion in funding for K-12 students. Certain student groups have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including but not limited to students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, multilingual learners, students experiencing homelessness, and migratory students. The Department is committed to the American Rescue Plan's (ARP) intended purpose of helping schools and communities recover from the pandemic. The Department will also continue to support State Educational Agencies (SEA) and Local Educational Entities (LEA) in meeting and enforcing the requirements of the ARPElementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund's first of its kind Maintenance of Equity requirement, which ensures that SEAs and LEAs do not disproportionately reduce per-pupil funding to districts and schools and that SEAs do not cut funding at all for the highest poverty districts.

Investing in resources to help advance civil rights. Advancing equity rests on the presumption of equal opportunities and protection under the law. The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) made the historic decision to collect data from the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, marking the first time OCR has conducted civil rights data collection from all public schools two school years in a row instead of every other year. The additional collection will allow the Department to identify inequities in educational opportunities as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on students' academic, social, and emotional development.

Advancing equity in contracting and procurement. Minority owned small businesses receive about 20 percent of total agency procurement actions, but they receive significantly fewer overall dollars. In response, the Department is identifying opportunities to award higher dollar actions to minority owned small businesses, consistent with the authorizing statute and regulations governing minority owned small business contract awards. Additionally, the Department will work with its Senior Executive Service (SES) to ensure executive performance plans address progress towards our achievement of the small business contracting goals.

Advancing equity in grant process strategies. The Department pursues its mission by funding programs that will improve access to high-quality educational opportunities and programs that pursue innovations in teaching and learning with a focus on underserved students. Each year the Department convenes panels of external education professionals and practitioners to serve as peer reviewers. To advance equity in the grants process, the Department will expand its outreach efforts to attract the broadest possible pool of reviewers.

"Education has the power to bring the American Dream within reach of every individual, lift communities, draw people together, drive our economy, and meet our nation's vast potential," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated in a press release. "We need to keep the focus on transforming our education system so it trulyexpands opportunity for all students, no matter their race, background, zip code, age, or family's income.Together, we must take bold action to ensure our nation's schools are defined not by disparities, but by equity and excellence, especially as we recover from the pandemic and reemerge stronger than before." 

A detailed action plan is available here