This memo provides an overview of how the 2020 elections will likely influence federal education policy, particularly in the context of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a national reckoning on racial injustice. This overview is not intended to fully explore all education issues that may be addressed by the federal government under the leadership of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris over the next four years, but it provides initial insights on likely dynamics, priorities, and near-term actions that will have both immediate consequence and set up longer term scenarios.

During a time in which higher education admissions practices are under intense scrutiny, clarity regarding key concepts associated with diversity issues has never been more essential. Indeed, these issues-particularly those relevant to the consideration of race and ethnicity in admission-predominate in media and in court, where strict scrutiny defines the landscape. With the goal of enhancing communications and engagement strategies between enrollment and admissions leaders and faculty, staff, and students, this guide provides practical information about core concepts that undergird educationally- and legally-sound enrollment policies associated with student diversity goals.

On July 27, Senate Republicans introduced a series of bills — comprising the “Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protections, and Schools (HEALS)” legislative package — as their latest stimulus proposal in response to the coronavirus, which is estimated to total approximately $1 trillion. The HEALS package is seen as a marker bill for negotiations with House Democrats, who passed an approximately $3.5 trillion relief package — H.R. 6800, the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act” — in mid-May. Negotiations on the final coronavirus relief package have been ongoing since the HEALS package introduction. This summary provides topline information on early childhood, K-12, and higher education funding provisions included in the HEALS package in comparison to the HEROES Act. Additionally, the summary provides an overview of the negotiations process to help understand key differences that must be resolved to reach a final agreement, as well as possible outcomes for those funding and policy provisions.

This guidance focuses on key changes made in the new U.S. Department of Education Title IX regulations on sexual harassment and their effects on higher education institutions and academic and professional disciplinary societies. The guidance also addresses prevention of and response to sexual harassment when it is outside the regulations’ limited definition of Title IX harassment, and the applicability of Title IX to societies.

This guide, authored by EducationCounsel in collaboration with and on behalf of CCSSO, explores how state education agencies (SEAs) can better partner with their Educational Service Agencies (ESAs) to extend state capacity, build coherent systems, and ensure equity across school districts that have different needs. The guide provides information on what these regional bodies are, the various types of governance and funding structures that exist across states, and examples of how SEAs are currently leveraging them to pursue their priorities and goals. It presents a framework through which SEAs can better understand what leverage they might have to influence how ESAs function in their states, and it recommends a set of strategies SEAs can consider pursuing given their specific contexts. (Click here for more context about this resource.)

In response to COVID-19, state governments, including state education agencies (SEAs), are being called upon to prioritize issues, make many decisions, and take action. As they do, one key priority should be to listen to their local education agencies (LEAs) about what local leaders and their communities most need this coming year and beyond. Although each SEA should engage with its own LEAs, this document seeks to provide a starting place for those conversations. It identifies, from the school district perspective, four principles for SEAs to embrace and fourteen priorities for them to address during this critical period.

The principles and priorities were culled from interviews with and feedback from the 18 superintendents of the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, an invitational network of large, diverse, innovative, and leading school districts dedicated to dramatically improving excellence and equity in public education through collaboration, leadership, and advocacy. The Consortium is supported by EducationCounsel and operates in affiliation with AASA, the School Superintendents Association.


May 24, 2018

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


October, 2020

The Trump Administration recently waded into waters reserved – not only by tradition but also by federal law – for state and local educational agencies: what curriculum is taught in public schools. Most significantly, the President threatened to withhold federal education funding from the state of California if it uses the 1619 Project curriculum. In a September 17 speech delivered at the White House Conference on American History, he described that particular curriculum (and other anti-racist approaches) as “toxic propaganda, ideological poison that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together.” He also announced the creation of a 1776 Commission that would “promote patriotic education” and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that would fund the creation of “a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history.”

Many education and legal experts quickly pointed out that federal law prohibits the federal government from getting involved in state and local decisions about curriculum.

Through its long-standing engagement with GLSEN, a national nonprofit dedicated to promoting and supporting LGBTQ+ inclusive schools, EducationCounsel has authored numerous amicus briefs along with Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP on behalf of GLSEN, the National PTA, the American School Counselor Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists (referred to as “amici” below) in the U.S. Supreme Court and several federal circuit courts of appeal.

While equitable access to school restrooms may seem unimportant and tangential to some, being able to use the restroom that matches his gender identity has been the plight of Gavin Grimm, and to an increasing number of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, for many years. His journey continues with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing oral arguments on his case late last month — for the second time.

Last year, EducationCounsel filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of Gavin (Grimm v. Gloucester Country School Board). Gavin, who identifies as transgender, is a former student of Gloucester County Schools and has been fighting for relief from a policy that prevented him from using bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with his identity.

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.


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