U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
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Informing ED's Response to the Presidential
Memorandum on "Administrative Flexibility,
Lower Costs, and Better Results for State,
Local, and Tribal Governments"
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THURSDAY, JULY 14, 2011
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The Stakeholders Forum was held in the U.S. Department of Education, Barnard Auditorium, at 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C., at 2:30 p.m., Massie Ritsch, Deputy Assistant Secretary, presiding.
MASSIE RITSCH, Deputy Assistant Secretary,
External Affairs and Outreach
DENISE FORTE, Deputy Assistant Secretary,
Office of Planning, Evaluation, and
ELIZABETH MCFADDEN, Deputy General Counsel
MELODY MUSGROVE, Director, Office of Special
ROSS SANTY, Director, Performance
Information Management Service
AJITA TALWALKER, Office of the
JOHAN UVIN, Deputy Assistant Secretary,
Office of Vocational and Adult
MICHAEL YUDIN, Deputy Assistant Secretary,
Office of Elementary and Secondary
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Welcome and Opening Comments, Massie Ritsch 3
Overview of the Administration's Flexibility Agenda, Denise Forte 5
Comment Session 15
MR. RITSCH: Welcome to the Department of Education on a beautiful day here in Washington. Today is Bastille Day, July 14th, and in the spirit of that French holiday which was about independence we'll be talking about flexibility today in the form of independence here that we're seeking your input on.
I want to welcome folks here in the audience. I'm Massie Ritsch, head of our outreach operation here at the Department, and I want to welcome our viewers on USTREAM who are tuning in from who-knows-where to join us for today's forum.
The purpose today is to talk about the President's administrative flexibility agenda. As part of that, what we're hoping to get from you is a better sense of how we at the Department of Education can increase flexibility and reduce both the burden and the overall cost for education stakeholders in implementing programs and reforms, always of course with the goal of improving academic results for children.
As you likely know, in February, President Obama issued a formal memorandum that required federal agencies to report to OMB the actions taken and plans put forward to offer greater flexibility for federal programs that are operated by state, local, and tribal governments.
And to implement the directive in that memorandum, we've been working to identify administrative, regulatory, and legislative barriers that currently prevent states, localities, and tribes from best achieving their program goals and objectives.
One of the steps we've taken was formally publishing our own Federal Register notice on July 6th, specifically requesting input from the field on how to reduce regulatory and administrative burden and furthermore, we wanted an opportunity for a more face-to-face exchange which is why we've asked you to come here today.
So here is how today will work. My colleague, Denise Forte, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, will give us an overview of the administration's flexibility agenda. We'll then rearrange the furniture a little bit, to accommodate bringing up more colleagues to the stage and into the conversation. We'll introduce those folks to you and then get into taking your comments and input today.
So with that I will bring Denise up.
MS. FORTE: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. I want to thank Massie for making me a little bit more French and Denise Forte -- my name is Denise Forte, that's okay. It's Bastille Day. But thanks for coming over and joining us.
Massie laid out for you our interest here today, but let me speak to you a little bit more about what is driving most of this. Earlier this year, the President issued a memorandum on administrative flexibility, lower costs, and better results for state, local, and tribal governments, which is really a technical way of saying that we want to get out of the way. This memorandum launched a coordinated and government-wide effort to provide increased flexibility, reduce unnecessary burdens, and it is all about improving outcomes and reducing costs.
And it builds on an earlier initiative that the President had under an Executive Order which was released in January of this year entitled, "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review" which calls for an analysis of agency regulations including a retrospective analysis in order to simplify redundant, inconsistent, or overlapping requirements.
So what was this really? It gave us directions -- directions from the President to the agencies and it was very clear. The President said to us that he wanted us to focus on accountability, on outcomes, rather than processes. He wanted to empower state and local and tribal governments to bring forward their visions and solutions for how public funds can be used more cost effectively to accomplish better results, and you all are already trying to do more with less. We want to be able to complement that work, and by complement, with an “E,” the hard work that you are already doing.
We want to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and, if necessary, offer flexibility on a conditional or experimental basis, if that's where the states are. And we also wanted to identify areas where cross-agency collaboration would further reduce administrative and regulatory barriers while improving outcomes.
So we have been very enthusiastic about this effort. In fact, we have a Department-wide ethic: flexibility must deliver outcomes, and we've been looking at how we can move away from solely being viewed as a monitoring agency that checks the boxes; instead of looking at whether a state, school, or district has met a requirement, to one where we can be more focused on whether the desired outcomes have been achieved.
And then earlier this year, we issued a primer to governors on the flexibilities that already exist. We've identified some additional areas that we think can have very broad implications for a wide set of stakeholders. This would include interagency collaboration for issues such as early learning, workforce development, and place-based initiatives such as Promise Neighborhoods. These are all areas where we can work with other agencies such as HHS, DOL, or HUD, the Department of Justice, and others, to streamline our applications, consolidate grants, and reduce regulations so that programs are more effective on the ground.
We also think that data certainly provides us another tool in our flexibility toolkit. This is more than just about building systems and collecting data elements, but we ourselves want to support a culture that uses information for decision making to create systems of continuous improvement. And we know that better information is needed for decisions at all levels of the education system.
And we've identified maintenance of effort as a key part of this, because we do believe that providing a better and more transparent system for how states are demonstrating that they have maintained state spending in education is something that has been called for.
Lastly, we have established a requirement task force here at the Department and that's chaired by the Office of the Deputy Secretary, Office of the General Counsel, Office of the Undersecretary, and the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, that will work with our different program officers and with our stakeholders to look at all of these areas to see where we can create greater flexibility and reduce some burden.
We do have deliverables. We want with you, with your input, to identify some high-impact areas where we think that we can have some broad implications for the widest set of stakeholders. We'll then be establishing some preliminary plans and actions, both short- and long-term on how we can achieve those areas, keeping in mind that we're always going to be focused on outcomes, and then a report to the Office of Office of Management and Budget by the end of August.
I did want to share with you some of our outreach efforts. This is one of them. We've also been attending conferences. We'll be attending an NCES Conference and doing some outreach there, as well as the OSEP Megaconference in early August to talk to some of our special educators. We also have a couple of opportunities for you to give your input outside of this venue through the Federal Register process, at www.regulations.gov, and then we've also set up an email address for ESEA comments at email@example.com.
Also, I wanted to share with you where you might be able to find the Executive Order and the Presidential Memorandum in case you have some additional questions on exactly what we're looking at. There’s also the Federal Register notice that will also direct you to our preliminary plan and retrospective analysis of the regulations that we've identified that we would like to take a look at.
Today, we have some heavy hitters that are going to be joining me up on stage and will participate as part of our listening panel. Among them, Elizabeth McFadden, who is our Deputy General Counsel, one of our Deputy General Counsels; Melody Musgrove, the Director over at OSEP; Ross Santy, who is our Director for PIMS which has primary responsibility for EdFACTS; Johan Uvin, who is our Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education; Michael Yudin, who is our Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secretary Education; and Ajita Talwalker, who is joining us from the Office of the Undersecretary.
And I wanted to run through with you some of the questions that we've been thinking about here, but where we particularly need your input. Unfortunately, I can't leave these up, but I think these will help to frame some of the conversation as we open it up for questions. One -– these are some very overarching questions I think -- but certainly get to some of the ideas that we're looking for: What administrative regulatory and statutory requirements can be changed to reduce costs and unnecessary burdens?
What type of regulatory requirements should the Department consider waiving, subject of course, to the statutory waiver authority?
Should the Department be streamlining applications in the approval process for waivers, and if so, how?
Where could the Department reduce current reporting requirements that are not necessary?
And where are there opportunities to consolidate or streamline data collection or submission requirements?
How can the Department streamline or modify procedures that we use for processing requests for waivers, MOE requirements, and how to make them more transparent and uniform?
And then the last three: What are some of the cross-agency flexibilities or alignment that we need so that we can improve on early learning, workforce and place-based efforts?
What kind of flexibility can the Department offer itself to help facilitate some of the collaboration at and across state, local, and tribal governments?
And then where can we increase flexibility to drive the most improvements in program and student outcomes?
So we do need your help. We want your input. We hope that next hour or so will give you an opportunity to bring forward some ideas that you have. We're going to roll up the screen, move a table on stage and I'm going to ask my colleagues to come join me, and then Massie is going to start asking for questions. So we do appreciate your time today and look forward to hearing your comments.
MR. RITSCH: Merci, Madam Forte. So folks, we do have microphones, as we usually do, here and here. And we invite you to come up and make comments, offer input. We don't -- since we're looking for your input -- we don't necessarily have answers, so questions aren't necessarily going to be met with answers. But whatever you bring to the mic, I ask that you speak directly into it because we are transcribing this session and we are, as I said earlier, webcasting it on our USTREAM channel. It's always helpful if you identify yourself. If you have an unusually spelled name, you might want to spell that for us, too. And let us know what organization you're with and who you're representing today.
Following the forum, we will, of course, post the transcript and we'll have the video available on our website, likely early next week.
So as we are decorating the stage for our panel, why don't we bring the panel up to join us?
Denise previewed the group before. Have a seat, everybody, wherever you want, so that I then can let people know who you are.
Starting with Denise down on the end from our Policy Office, and then Melody Musgrove, who is the Director of the Office of Special Education Programs; Elizabeth McFadden, Deputy General Counsel; Ajita Talwalker, Special Assistant in the Office of the Undersecretary; Ross Santy, Director of the Performance Information Management Service; Michael Yudin, also Deputy Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education; and Johan Uvin, from th Office of Vocational and Adult Education.
Do we have enough chairs for everybody? Okay.
So please, join us by coming to the microphone on this side or this side and offer your thoughts. Because we are looking for input on a wide range of topics, all the programs and policies we have, this will probably be a wide-ranging discussion that is likely to jump around a bit. So we'll try and bring some focus to it as possible, and group like things together, if we can.
But would anyone like to kick us off? Rich would. I was going to call on you, if you didn't. Is that microphone working over there? It is.
MR. LONG: First off, I'd like to point out that there's not public parking for bicycles at the Department. That should be taken care of.
MR. RITSCH: Noted.
MR. LONG: For those of us who are young at heart. My name is Richard Long. I'm with the National Title I Association. We did a set of work with the State Directors of Special Education, and we found a number of things that were befuddling in federal regulations which I know is shocking to everybody. But we found repeatedly that there were terms and ideas that were in both Title I and IDEA requiring collection of data, where the terms were exactly alike and frequently the definitions were quite different, either the definitions of the words themselves, the concepts themselves, or the time period that state and local people would have to collect two sets of data, essentially, for the same idea which, of course, is not efficient.
The issue also gets to another level of absurdity. We're finding that the requirements of the Department to become a data-driven organization and encourage the whole society to become that way is resulting in the states and locals having to fire programmatic people, content people, and hire data people. And that's counter-intuitive, counter-productive as well.
And then we also have found over time that the Department is collecting data that it itself doesn't have the ability to process. And that's something that I think you ought to take a look at because that would be one level of asking the question: what's the utility of what we're doing?
So if you don't have the ability to process the data, you shouldn't be requiring that data to be collected. And when I say you, I also actually mean all of us because those of us in the audience who have asked Congress to ask you to collect data, we caused part of that problem. Congress asked you to collect data. They caused part of that problem. And of course, you asked for data to be collected as well.
That's just one slice of an area where I think that you can be cutting down on the burden and also improving on the value. Thank you.
MR. RITSCH: And Rich, to your first point, the terms that might be alike, but definitionally different, are there any specific examples you wanted to cite or could the association send those along?
MR. LONG: We actually produced a paper that has several recommendations in there related to maintenance of effort. You can also get to things like graduation rates where there are some policy issues there. It's just not that the data is different, but there's also, if you look at many of the requirements across both of these areas and we believe we have, about two and a half million kids we share in both areas where the timelines are different, but sometimes the data point is actually the same, but you can't use the same data point twice because the timelines are different. And that lack of congruence is expensive and discerning.
MR. RITSCH: And is there particular data that we collect that you say we're not able to process that you wanted to --
MR. LONG: Yes, I was doing a paper last year on ELL and we knew that you had the data on not just the number of kids, but some of the qualitative issues involved there and that it's very expensive to produce. And when we called to the Department because we thought “oh good, this will be very helpful on our planning,” and we found that the Department didn't have the resources to process the data. And so that was done by chance, so that was either an idiosyncratic moment. More likely, it's indicative of other issues.
I don't believe that you would say at the end of every data collection requirement: are we able to process this data? But I think that should be part of your management review.
MR. RITSCH: Okay, thank you. Thank you for acknowledging that sometimes the things we require of you have been asked by others, including associations and Congress.
MR. YUDIN: Yes, I just wanted to note and I think you know this, the Secretary met with members of the disability community, advocacy community, a number of weeks ago. And he has, in fact, charged OESE, in working with OSERS and OPEPD, to convene a working group to look at the types of issues that you're talking about. How do we better align our data collection, the definitions, our performance reporting and monitoring. It makes absolute sense to do a much, much better job of aligning these two programs in particular, IDEA and ESEA. So we've already begun that work, so thank you.
MR. RITSCH: Thank you, Rich. Others?
Jim, Laura, come on up.
MS. KALOI: I am Laura Kaloi. I'm the public policy director with the National Center for Learning Disabilities and I did come prepared to say a few things, but in light of what Rich said, I think it's really important to just build on that and point out that in light of your priority to increase alignment in K to 12 and focus on improving student outcomes, we actually appreciate the work that's been by OSEP to review the guidance generated by the Department regarding the state performance plan and annual performance reports, and we think this is a really good step forward and should be a major priority, and that that momentum shouldn't be lost.
The process you used to determine adequate implementation of IDEA is really important and current guidance submits consideration of performance indicators such as graduation rate, dropout rate, and proficiency on state assessments in making both the SEA and the LEA determinations under the Department of Ed's requirements.
So in addition we think it could be argued that existing indicators contain process-focused redundancies that could be streamlined.
We think if you really wanted to make changes to guidance that will improve outcomes for students, the current guidance could be closely examined, particularly its alignment to Congressional intent so that we're looking at outcomes and not so much at process.
So that's one of the specific things that I wanted to point out today. And we will be making more extensive written comments, but I also came to explicitly talk to you about intent regarding a review of the regulations for the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and urge you to exercise some caution. We know it took at least two years in the last three authorizations of IDEA to generate those regulations, the guidance that followed, and the proposed regulations. We're concerned that because the reauthorization of IDEA is meant to happen after the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization, that it might be premature to review the IDEA regulations.
If you decide to proceed, we want to make sure that you closely think about the civil rights aspect of IDEA, that it is also blended with a grant program to states and that you take particular care when weighing the significance of burden expressed by the states, because those who possess rights under IDEA, the children who have disabilities and their parents, they need equal if not greater consideration in the context of any proposed changes.
And so we want you to think about the Congressional reauthorization in 2004 and how it sought to address some of these burdens through our Paperwork Reduction Act and the pilots that were put forward, and that no states stepped forward to actually conduct those pilots.
And so we think perhaps that the burden wasn't as severe as was expressed seven years ago. So we just offer that for thought and we'll provide more extensive comments as appropriate. Thank you.
MR. RITSCH: Thanks. Melody?
MS. MUSGROVE: Sure. First, I'd like to speak to the SPPAPR, the State Performance Plan Annual Performance Report, work that's being done. Thank you for your involvement and we convened a great stakeholder group to look at those requirements, to look at the indicators and to determine if there are ways that we can be more efficient with our data that can make the process more meaningful.
And so we look forward to acting on those recommendations from that group and we absolutely are committed to continuing that work. So thank you for that. I appreciate your input on that.
MR. RITSCH: Thanks, Laura. Jim?
MR. KOHLMOOS: Bon jour. Well, it is Bastille Day and we should celebrate the defeat of the French women a couple of days ago.
My name is Jim Kohlmoos and I'm from Knowledge Alliance. And the difficulty, the difficult position that you're in, is challenging because on the one hand you want to promote flexibility in the focus on results, not just on compliance. And on the other side of the coin, you have to balance that with how to ensure the taxpayer money is being used properly.
And one very small issue or seemingly small issue that probably you don't want to bother with, but I would like to raise, is in this regard: that for a lot of contracts and programs that require convening of people, particularly state and local education folks, there are serious prohibitions against feeding them when they come to meetings. And that may sound ridiculous, but in order for meetings to happen and to flow and what have you, it would be really nice to lift some of those restrictions on food. And I'm sure there are many other kind of detailed points like that that require a super amount of micro managing of activities that are legitimate and important to the overall mission of the Department. So I would just like to put that on the table.
MR. RITSCH: Have you availed yourself of our complementary water?
MR. KOHLMOOS: Thank you very much.
MR. RITSCH: Are there any menus you wanted to suggest? No, we hear you. We encounter that, of course, in our own programs that we put on here. It can be difficult to do the kinds of things you want to do and use full days when you can't offer that to people.
Does anyone want to say anything about that? Thank you, Jim. Nothing is too small here to suggest after all. We're looking for low-hanging fruit as well as things that are harder to get at.
MR. SLOVENIC: I'm Joe Slovenic. I recently completed the Georgetown University Workforce Investment Act Program and I had emailed you that I wanted to follow up on the talk with Arne Duncan about that issue on January 24th, and also a talk that we had at a function with Danny Davis where Arne Duncan and Gerri Fiala were on February 28th.
I'm looking for cooperation between Arne Duncan, Hilda Solis in talking to Georgetown on follow-up on my program. Unfortunately, it has not gone well. I think the President needs to pay some attention about workforce development, about the relationship between Hilda Solis and the D.C. Department of Employment Services. Several universities have either quit using the program or asked to stop using the Workforce Investment Act Program.
Georgetown, after I left there in February 2011, and George Washington University, where I tried to enroll in 2010, face a lot of obstacles from the DOES. The same thing happened at Strayer when I tried to enroll there in April 2010. DOES processed me a day late. Howard, Potomac, they all dropped out of WIA.
Now in regards to flexibility about improving the outcomes, I'm going to concentrate on what the President said about improving the outcomes. I think there's a conflict between some stinginess I found from D.C. Department of Employment Services because they wouldn't allow me to start a program until I ran out of 99 weeks of unemployment insurance and I've only got about $200 in the bank. In January, I only earned $17. I've had no income since January.
D.C. Department of Employment Services is very stubborn about not wanting to give me money for dry cleaning, my own personal expenses, for this job search. I haven't gotten an offer yet. They would not talk to Georgetown's Financial Aid Office about paying my expenses. And they've also ignored my request to get a paid on-the-job program from D.C. since March of 2011 with my desperate financial circumstances. So there's kind of a bad program outcome. I did not receive a job placement and I think D.C. is a detriment to my long-term goals.
I was a little more prepared in what I was going to say. I had wanted to emphasize to you because Georgetown was not too receptive to a dialogue which I proposed and it's kind of unfortunately your decision what to do, which I think could be good, but we need to have politeness to the faculty who taught me. Professor Larry Joseph, Professor Charles McClelland, Professor Jeff Stempien, they're very distinguished and have many years of experience in government agencies, both in civilian and labor-related areas, housing, Defense Department work, Energy Department work with Larry Joseph. And I give them all A to A-minus ratings. So I do want to have them respected.
I think with Larry Joseph, he said that his son played basketball with Arne Duncan at the University of Chicago, and Larry Joseph was considering teaching project management at the University of Chicago. Now I think President Obama would say, “Well, there is an opportunity. Larry Joseph may want to teach there.” I'm willing to positively recommend to Governor Pat Quinn and I think Mr. Ridley, to explore talks with Larry about economic development if --
MR. RITSCH: Maybe we're getting a little bit off the topic here of flexibility. If I can extrapolate from your earlier comments and I want to make sure that maybe afterward we can follow up with you personally as we did in January when you came, and we connected you with Johan's office in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.
It sounds like maybe you are suggesting that in some of the job training programs that you sought to be part of that there were certain restrictions that you would have considered yourself a natural candidate to enroll in those programs, but there were certain burdens or certain requirements that you didn't quite yet meet.
MR. SLOVENIC: Yes.
MR. RITSCH: That prevented you from taking advantage of those services.
MR. SLOVENIC: No. I would just say there was a total -- going AWOL -- a total abandonment of the goals that Arne and I tried to set on January 24th. Gerri Fiala would not respond to an email I sent her in March. She did not talk to Georgetown. I spent a few minutes with Linda Greenan and --
MR. RITSCH: This would not be a place to air those particular personal disagreements that you have. But if I could ask Johan, and I'd be happy also to talk with you afterward about your particular situation and see if we can get a better sense of how we can help at the Department.
MR. SLOVENIC: Okay, because there's a danger of my bankruptcy within a month. I may try to go to the University of Phoenix --
MR. RITSCH: I understand.
MR. SLOVENIC: I do need to talk to Stephanie Kunis about --
MR. RITSCH: Let's talk afterwards, all right. We need to move on to some of our other commentators to stay focused on our topic today which is flexibility and where we can bring it about.
MR. SLOVENIC: I tried Georgetown Human Resources also, but I don't feel that you should blame it on Georgetown. I worked for the Obama campaign in 2008 and they should have gotten involved in the training also. Thank you.
MR. RITSCH: Thank you. Hello, Rob.
MR. MAHAFFEY: Hello, Massie. I don't speak French. My name is Robert Mahaffey. I'm with the Rural School and Community Trust. Thank you for hosting this briefing, as always.
We had a briefing on the Senate side with regard to Senate 946 and I know you're not going to comment on any pending piece of legislation, but the bill would establish an Office of Rural Education Policy here at the Department that would be part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Ed.
And at the heart of the bill -- and it has 18 Senate co-sponsors now, with the original sponsors being Senator Baucus and Senator Rockefeller -- the heart of the bill is at flexibility when it comes to rural schools and research and looking at how the Department can have an independent arm that's modeled after the Office of Rural Health Policy at HHS which has had a successful track record for 25 years.
The Department has not issued a statement either for or against the bill. They've been very, very helpful with regard to the technical review, and the staff that we've been working across the Senate have been very appreciative of that. And the Secretary's efforts around rural outreach, rural engagement, his commitment to rural schools is greatly appreciated by the Rural School and Community Trust as well.
However, those efforts really are engaged in outreach, communication, partnership building, all very, very important. They do not focus on research that is authentic and valid, that can be used to support the programs of the Department like Investing in Innovation, like Race to the Top, like all these other efforts.
So my question is really more of a comment, and as you're going through this process internally, we would hope that you would look at particular populations. As difficult and as complex as they may be to define, but with regard to rural children and rural schools and all the other attendant federal policies that impact them like the reauthorization of the Rural Education Advancement Program, like the formula funds in Title I, like all these other issues and how they affect rural places. The flexibility issues for rural people become all the more complex and this office would address a lot of those issues.
So I'd ask that you keep that in your deliberations. Thank you.
MR. RITSCH: Thanks, Rob. Nancy?
MS. REDER: Hi. I'm Nancy Reder with the State Directors of Special Education, NASDSE, and I want to thank you for holding this forum and for putting the notice out in the Federal Register and we'll submit some written comments.
I just wanted to say I concur with everything that Rich said since we worked together on the project.
One of the things I wanted to urge you to think about as I was sitting here listening to other comments is when you take a look at the totality of where the Department wants to go and we believe very strongly in focusing on child outcomes, to bear in mind what's going on at the state departments of education that will be charged with implementing, and are charged with implementing all of the regulations and policies that you put into place. And just know that a state like Alaska, for example, which has exactly two people in their state’s special education office, versus a state like California that has well over a hundred, have the same exact requirements that they are responsible for implementing.
And the state agencies are laying off people in droves. Texas, yesterday, or earlier this week laid off, I think, well over a hundred people across the board in their state education agency. They still have to do everything that you want them to do, but we just urge you to focus on outcomes.
And we appreciate the leadership that Melody took in holding the forum to take another look at the indicators and just sort of look at the totality of things as you think about what you're asking the states to do, because they are doing it with a whole lot less. Thanks.
MR. RITSCH: Thank you. Michael?
MR. YUDIN: Thank you for that, Nancy. And you know, we've talked a little bit about, you know, moving from kind of a culture of compliance to one of looking at outcomes, but we're also actually really trying to move away just from compliance to providing the support. And I think that's the point that I think you raise is that we do want to look at outcomes.
We absolutely want to move from compliance to outcomes. But we're also dedicated to shifting the way we do business here at the Department and that's from compliance to support, to supporting the innovations and the reforms that our states and our school districts want to take on. So I appreciate your remarks.
MR. RITSCH: Hello, Mary Louise.
MS. EMBREY: Hello. Thank you for having us --
MR. RITSCH: You have a hand-held. Are you going to sing?
MS. EMBREY: Hand-held because it's a little tall for me. Thank you for having us here and I just wanted to mention in terms of the efficiency of collecting data, as well as the processing of the data at the federal level, that you consider blending some funding streams. The health and education streams should be looked at, I believe more closely in terms of blending and looking --
MR. RITSCH: Let everyone know who you're representing.
MS. EMBREY: I'm sorry. Mary Louise Embrey, National Association of School Nurses. Like for instance with the DASH which is no longer going to be DASH, where they were the health group collecting data from educators, and people at HHS being a much larger agency, have the capacity for a lot of types of data collection. So I would encourage you to both at the federal level and at the state level, as Nancy said, with the reduced staff at state levels, it would be better to find ways to have cooperative agreements or Memoranda of Understanding, to blend those sources and collect the data and have perhaps the agency with more capacity, like HHS, to process a lot of the data.
MR. RITSCH: That just raises a question for me. As we're independently, as agencies, looking at areas for flexibility, are there discussions with other agencies that might be partners and programs about how we can do the kind of thing that Mary Louise was talking about?
MS. FORTE: Yes, that is a great question, Massie. So in particular, in terms of this current agenda, that's something that we do want to highlight, and this is across agency collaboration. As many of you are familiar already, we are engaged right now with HHS in terms of looking at the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, but also Promise Neighborhoods. We've been talking with HHS, HUD, and the Department of Justice. We know that if we're able to collaborate better at the federal level and look to ways that we can eliminate certain barriers that that will trickle down to the local level and where you guys can get the greatest outcomes. But we are certainly looking at cross-agency collaboration issues. We've been doing that here at the Department for a while, even within Safe Schools Healthy Children, which is an initiative that's been ongoing and we'll be looking for other opportunities.
MR. RITSCH: Other comments, questions? Yes, ma'am.
MS. HINES: Kim Hines with the Council for Exceptional Children. I just wanted to talk a little bit about the waivers as opposed to some of the duplicative data collection issues.
We understand that everyone here on the panel and in the audience understands the importance of maintaining subgroup accountability and the disaggregation of data that NCLB drove and the importance, and the changes that have been made for certain student populations such as students with disabilities, and having that information and transparency.
And so my only comment is just to say that in considering any waivers or changes, there's interest in learning more about the authority of what kind of waivers can be issued, but we would just emphasize, you know, that special education teachers see subgroup accountability and disaggregation of data as being really critical to having a seat at the table, having their students be recognized in schools. And so we would just urge you to maintain that.
MR. RITSCH: Thank you, Kim. Our Secretary has indicated that we need to have a Plan B in the event that Congress is not able to deliver a reauthorized package of ESEA to the President's desk before the beginning of the school year, so we are looking for any input and this would be an opportunity on what sort of flexibility folks would be looking for and how that might be paired with reforms as well, and what should be preserved and not touched at the same time.
MR. YUDIN: And if I could just add to that. The Secretary has made it clear that ESEA reauthorization absolutely remains our priority. It is the way to address many of the issues and challenges that the current law places for school systems.
But you know, the Secretary has made it clear that maintaining accountability is going to continue. There's no way this is going to be a free pass and disaggregated accountability is absolutely critical. He's made that clear.
MR. RITSCH: Thank you, Kim. Other thoughts along those lines or other comments? We've locked the doors. We're not going to let you out for another 40 minutes. From our panel, anything that you all wanted to ask of the audience or comments you wanted to make?
MS. FORTE: As you continue to think about these things, and I do think Massie will open the doors probably before 40 minutes, don't forget that we do have a couple of different ways for you to provide us input. The Federal Register notice also lists the questions that we posted earlier, so as you continue to think about these issues, know that for ESEA comments, firstname.lastname@example.org offers you another opportunity perhaps to speak specifically to the waiver package if that is something that you'd like to do.
And regulations.gov offers another opportunity. But as you know, and as we talked about earlier, we would like you to be thinking about a wide range of issues. Don't limit yourself to K-12 of higher education issues. Processing of, you know, different requests, whether it's waivers or maintenance of effort, trying to become more accountable and transparent to you is also one of our goals. And we appreciate the time that you're spending with us today and we plan take advantage of those inputs.
MR. RITSCH: Absolutely. This is a topic that probably lends itself better to written comments as it can get quite specific. So we welcome those.
And to the extent that your associations have a stake in the work of other agencies, they, of course, are looking for some more input to comply with the President's memorandum and so we would encourage you to communicate with them and let us know where, as Mary Louise suggested, there might be places that different agencies could be working better together on these issues.
I just want to put the call out for any final comments or questions.
I want to thank you for your attention and for coming out on a beautiful day. We will look forward to seeing you again another time and the transcript of this session and video will be up on ed.gov very soon. Have a great rest of your afternoon.
(Whereupon, at 3:19 p.m., the stakeholders forum was concluded.)