This guidance provides a checklist of issues for consideration by Institutions of Higher Education and the entities responsible for their governance, as they consider reopening their campuses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Three categories of considerations are addressed: (1) Risk/Liability Avoidance; (2) Good Operations and Management (policies and processes to operationalize risk mitigation, advancement of mission, and address practicalities); and (3) Seizing Opportunities to Advance Diversity and Equity Goals (a teachable moment to drive action).

April, 2020
Dan Gordon, Elise Henson, Lynn Olson, Scott Palmer, LaVerne Srinivasan

In this executive summary of a forthcoming paper (to be released in summer 2020), EducationCounsel and Carnegie Corporation of New York address the critical question of how to accelerate a shift from our current educational system to one that—in both design and culture—functions more as a learning system. The paper builds on a February 2019 paper by EducationCounsel that focused primarily on why we need to make this shift and what such a learning system should look and feel like.

Relying on extensive interviews with and input from leaders from all corners of the education ecosystem, the forthcoming paper unpacks the challenges and gaps in the current system and identifies some starting points for advancing a learning system at all levels. Apart from any specific course of action, the paper seeks to begin the work of aligning four key drivers—human capacity, resources, leadership, and policy and incentives—toward the ultimate learning system vision.

On April 14, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced that the nearly $3 billion for states under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is being made available. Under the CARES Act, these flexible grants are for Governors to provide local educational agencies (LEAs), institutions of higher education (IHEs), and other education-related entities with emergency assistance to respond to the coronavirus. This initial summary provides insight into the Department’s timeline for allocation of funding, the process for states to receive funding, and other key information related to this funding availability.

On March 27, the President signed into law the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act” following an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 96-0 in the Senate and passage by voice vote in the House.

The CARES Act is the third package developed in response to the coronavirus crisis by Congress and the Administration. The Act, which is estimated to cost approximately $2 trillion, seeks to provide relief to individuals and families through direct payments and increased Unemployment Insurance benefits, support U.S. industries and small businesses impacted by the coronavirus, and provide emergency supplemental appropriations to various agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The Act also provides increased authority for federal agencies to waive select statutory and regulatory requirements.  This initial summary provides an overview of the key early childhood, K-12, and higher education provisions of the CARES Act, focused on the emergency supplemental appropriations and authorities for USED and HHS.

This article addresses key policy drivers and considerations, as well as legal design parameters, for effective and legally sustainable initiatives to enhance the diversity of college and university faculty. Its guidance is intended for policy decision-makers and lawyers. This article is an initial contribution to an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Diversity and the Law, Part II, which is being undertaken by EducationCounsel. The project is supplementing and providing a 10-year update of robust policy and law resources developed in the first phase of the project in 2009-2010. The objective of this article and the project is to support strong commitment and wise action by colleges and universities to advance diversity and equity in STEMM education and academic careers in a challenging legal landscape, through productive partnerships of academic decision-makers and legal advisors. The article provides guidance that should be useful in all fields; and, while the project is focused on STEMM fields, its resources also should be useful broadly.


May 24, 2018

Secretary Riley reflects on successful strategies to transform schools in rural communities. Read more.


June 3, 2020

The horrific killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people, combined with the nationwide protests that followed, have once again laid bare the painful truth that systemic racism and inequities remain an unconscionable blight on our nation. In criminal justice. In housing. In healthcare. In employment. And also in education.

In this moment, like too many that have preceded it, we hear, honor, and share the grief and outrage of our Black family members, friends, and colleagues; and we commit to speaking up and taking action—Black lives matter.

While we recognize the importance of words at a time like this, we also know just how inadequate words alone can be. The words of our Declaration of Independence reflect aspirations unmet; the words of our Constitution, commitments unfulfilled. If we are to achieve the dream, the lived reality of people of color in our country must give way to a new one. And we all must be agents of that change.

We believe in the power of education to transform lives of individuals and the communities in which they live. Unfortunately, far too many Black students are denied that transformative experience in ways that suppress their gifts and humanity. The potential for education will only come if we act to dismantle its systemic inequities and racism, thereby enabling each and every young person to thrive and live to their fullest potential.

EducationCounsel will act in ways large and small – through the priorities we advance, the partners and clients we work with, the pro bono and community investments that we make, and the ways in which we lift our voices – to advance education systems designed for equity. We will use the power we carry, individually and collectively, to constantly work on being actively anti-racist and dismantling white supremacy, with a renewed focus on justice for all.

Cathy Holahan & EducationCounsel

The K-12 public education system has a long way to go towards providing truly equitable student experiences and outcomes for students — ones that prepare them to thrive in school and beyond. We know that in order to create equitable learning environments we must aspire to a number of key characteristics for schools — including culturally affirming curriculums, safe and empowering climates, and flexible designs that meet the needs of all learners.

It is also well known that without resources that are adequate and distributed equitably, it is nearly impossible to achieve a quality learning experience for every child. Unfortunately, the reality of the public education system is that funding has long been tragically inequitable, with the schools serving high-need students often receiving the least funding.

The following was created in partnership with the Wallace Foundation and originally appeared on their blog on April 23, 2020.

The newly enacted federal law in response to the coronavirus crisis provides more than $30 billion for K-12 and higher education programs; more than $4 billion for early childhood education; and other supports such as forgivable loans to nonprofits, including many providers of afterschool or summer programs. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act comes at a moment when many states and districts are closing schools while seeking to continue to educate students, out-of-school-time programs are pondering how best to offer services and summer is fast approaching.

To assist decision makers, this post summarizes five things that school and district leaders should know about the major education provisions in the CARES Act. It also contains information pertaining to nonprofits.

As I chat with my kids about their first week of school, I can feel their nervous excitement about new classmates and teachers, books yet unread, projects to come, and hidden talents yet to be discovered.  School systems and homes all across America share in this time of preparation and anticipation for the new school year.  Often less heralded, however, is the work schools and education systems do to look back at prior work and figure out how this year can be even better.   For example, at my children’s school, a committee of parents and teachers are starting the year with a backwards look at the newly-released state assessment scores.  We are asking ourselves what the data mean for the effectiveness of last year’s strategies and staffing.  We’ll use those insights to help decide what to keep or change this year and beyond.  It is just one part of a larger process of continuous improvement the school uses to learn from and improve its supports and strategies.

In many schools, fall is also the time for new school improvement plans under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  In most states, this is the first year of plan implementation, so there is rightly considerable attention to what’s ahead this school year and beyond – particularly in schools identified for low performance.  A key part of the improvement process, however, must be looking back at the school improvement “architecture” that states built or refined over the last several years to support and spur school improvement.  It is critical to study and learn how the architecture is working in practice and continuously improve it to make sure a state’s system is actually advancing effective school improvement.


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