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UNDER RECONSTRUCTION: Spellings Proposes Re-Organization of the U.S. Department of Education

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"Today I am pleased to announce a new coordinating structure that focuses the resources of the Department on the people we primarily serve and aligns our leadership with the results we all seek in education excellence in K-12 education and postsecondary education."

In a new restructuring plan underway at the U.S. Department of Education, all elementary and secondary education programs would be administered by the Office of Deputy Secretary and all postsecondary programs and initiatives, including student aid, will fall under the control of the Office of the Under Secretary. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings offered details on the reshuffling in a March 4 memo to Education Department employees.

“Today I am pleased to announce a new coordinating structure that focuses the resources of the Department on the people we primarily serve and aligns our leadership with the results we all seek in education excellence in K-12 education and postsecondary education,” the memo read. “The new structure sets a high priority on clarification of roles, responsibilities, processes, and the key integration that needs to occur between policy department, program implementation, and communication.”

Under the reorganization, the Office of Deputy Secretary will focus on K-12 policy, which includes the No Child Left Behind Act, the president’s new High School Initiative, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Under the previous structure, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education administered programs and initiatives that focused on high schools.

“We’re going to put the ‘secondary’ back in the [Office of Elementary and Secondary Education],” said David Dunn, Secretary Spellings’s chief of staff, in a telephone press conference. “We are really going to try to align the organizational structure with the key, critical missions of the U.S. Department of Education,” he said.

The Office of Under Secretary will focus on higher education and adult education policy under the restructuring and be responsible for postsecondary policy, college aid, and the president’s proposed financial aid reforms for the Pell Grant program.

Spellings also proposed creating two new offices to be led by assistant secretaries, who would be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and then report directly to Spellings. The Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, would supervise the budget service, strategic accountability service, and the policy and program studies service. The Office of Communications and Outreach, would bring together the current Office of Public Affairs, the Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs, and communications functions from all program offices.

In her memo, Spellings anticipated that the process will be conducted at a “constructively aggressive pace in the coming weeks.” She continued, “Some of the changes will progress quickly whereas other changes involving movement of functions from one Principal Office to another will take longer.” During the transition, Edward R. “Ted” McPherson, the current undersecretary of education, will shift to a senior advisor position to oversee the restructuring.

 

U.S. Department of Education Now Accepting Applications for GEAR UP Grants

 

The U.S. Department of Education is now accepting grant applications for funds available under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). The GEAR UP program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

GEAR UP provides five-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. Grantees serve an entire cohort of students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follow the cohort through high school. Funds can also be used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.

GEAR UP employs partnerships committed to serving and accelerating the academic achievement of cohorts of students through their high school graduation. GEAR UP partnerships supplement (not supplant) existing reform efforts, offer services that promote academic preparation and the understanding of necessary costs to attend college, provide professional development, and continuously build capacity so that projects can be sustained beyond the term of the grant.

For fiscal year 2005, $113.2 million is available for approximately 226 new partnership grants. Partnership grants are competitive six-year matching grants that support early intervention programs designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students. An additional $74.3 million is available for twenty-six state grants. State GEAR UP grants are competitive six-year matching grants that must include both an early intervention component and a scholarship component.

For fiscal year 2006, President Bush proposed to eliminate funding for the GEAR UP program, one of the few programs to receive an “adequate” rating from the U.S. Department of Education’s program rating tool. According to the Bush administration, “no definitive data exists on GEAR UP’s capacity to achieve its long-term performance goals.”

More information, including grant applications, is available at http://www.ed.gov/programs/gearup/applicant.html.

 

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