Inclusive Learning Environments for Religiously Diverse Students

Join the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Wednesday, March 22, 3:00 P.M. ET, for our session at the American Federation of Teachers’ 2023 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference. Representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice will share guidance and strategies for welcoming, accommodating, and fostering inclusive learning environments for students of all faiths and none. Register here

ICYMI – Secretary Cardona: ‘We are Raising the Bar for Parent Partnership in Our Schools’ – Newsweek Opinion

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote this opinion piece yesterday for Newsweek:

“When it comes to education, there is far more that unites parents across America than divides us. As secretary of education, a parent, and a former teacher and principal, I’ve seen that no matter a parent’s political leaning, their top priority is making sure that their child has access to a school where they can learn and feel welcome, and a quality education where they can succeed in whichever career they choose.

Unfortunately, some politicians and elected officials in recent years have been less focused on that, and are more interested in using education as a means to divide, not unite.

That approach does nothing to help students across the country. None of the nearly 10,000 parents with whom my team and I have met since the president took office said they wanted more culture wars or partisan politics in schools. While each of these parents brought their own distinct needs and perspectives, they were united by a focus on their child’s ability to learn now—and thrive in the future.

That’s exactly what we’re focused on. From Day One of President Joe Biden‘s tenure, we have made authentic parent engagement a top priority, not only embedding the needs of parents and families into most of our programs, but also creating new opportunities for parents to engage directly with the Department of Education and with their own school communities.

Click here to read more.

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Celebrates the Second Anniversary of the Reestablishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Today the White House issued a fact sheet highlighting the second year of accomplishments of the Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships across all federal agencies:

“Two years ago this week, President Biden signed an executive order reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (the “Partnerships Office”). The mission of this office is to serve people in need by collaborating with interested faith-based and community organizations. The Partnerships Office is an essential part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to bring people of all backgrounds and beliefs together to meet our challenges, build a more perfect union, and restore the soul of our country.

The Partnerships Office works with agency Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (“agency Centers”) at the Departments of AgricultureCommerceEducation, Health and Human ServicesHomeland SecurityHousing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs; the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Small Business Administration; and staff at AmeriCorps, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Transportation. Over the past year, this team has collaborated with a wide range of faith-based and neighborhood organizations to advance shared priorities such as safeguarding the right to practice faith without fear; expanding opportunity, especially for disadvantaged or underserved communities; responding to disasters; helping people struggling with mental health and substance use problems; improving maternal and child health; addressing hunger and nutrition; welcoming refugees; protecting the environment; and assisting with preparedness, response, and recovery from COVID-19….”

Click here to read more.

Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month

Every year, the President proclaims January as a month dedicated to the awareness and prevention of human trafficking:

“Around the world, human trafficking has stripped nearly 25 million people of their safety, dignity, and liberty — disproportionately affecting historically underserved and marginalized communities.  During National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we reaffirm our commitment to ending this inhumane and immoral practice in all its forms.  And as we bring perpetrators to justice, we renew our pledge to help survivors recover and rebuild their lives.”

In recognition of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office of Safe and Supportive Schools and the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments hosted a two-part miniseries focused on the roles of families in human trafficking, including participation, prevention, and intervention:

  • Part 1: Supporting Students Who Have Experienced Familial Human Trafficking: (Archived from Jan. 11) The first webinar of the two-part miniseries described the unique needs of students trafficked by a family member. Subject matter experts, including people with lived experience, provided brief presentations on the impacts of familial trafficking and, through a panel discussion, shared approaches to supporting these students.
  • Part 2: Engaging Families in Preventing and Addressing Human Trafficking: (Recording from Jan. 25) During the second webinar, subject matter experts offered a variety of approaches for school personnel to work with families to build protective factors in their children to lessen the risk of victimization and to support students who have been trafficked.

Also, in recognition of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a Newly Revised Faith-Based Community Leaders Human Trafficking Toolkit which is a human trafficking resource to engage Houses of Worship and the community to help raise awareness of human trafficking. It also provides guidance on how to respond to the needs of victims or those vulnerable to harm. The toolkit is also available in Spanish. Learn more about other DHS Blue Campaign Resources, including the General Awareness Training Video.

ED Religious Literacy Series

The US Department of Education’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is holding a virtual event series on religious literacy to support greater understanding and inclusion of America’s religious diversity. The series is aimed at supporting public PreK-12 schools with strategies for welcoming, accommodating, and fostering inclusive learning environments for students of diverse religious and non-religious backgrounds.

ED Religious Literacy Series, Part 1: Preventing and Addressing Bullying

January 19, 2023, 4:00 – 5:00 pm. ET

The first event of this three-part series will specifically focus on facilitating more inclusive learning environments by preventing and addressing bullying that students may experience because of their actual or perceived religious affiliation.

ED Religious Literacy Series, Part 2: Creating Inclusive Learning Environments for Religiously Diverse Students

February 15, 2023, 4:00 – 5:00 pm ET

The second event of this three-part series will specifically focus on facilitating more inclusive learning environments through school policies and practices, such as those related to the academic calendar, dress codes, cafeteria options, and more.

Office for Civil Rights Guidance on Discrimination Related to Religion

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a fact sheet on how it protects students from discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics. As it reads in part:

“Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin against students of any religion, such as students who are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, or Buddhist, when the discrimination, for example, involves:

  • racial, ethnic, or ancestral slurs or stereotypes;
  • how a student looks, including skin color, physical features, or style of dress that reflects both ethnic and religious traditions; and
  • a foreign accent; a foreign name, including names commonly associated with particular shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics; or speaking a foreign language.

Because Title VI does not protect students from discrimination based only on religion, such as a school’s denial of a student’s request to miss class for a religious holiday, OCR refers complaints of discrimination based exclusively on religion to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which has jurisdiction on this issue.”

Additional information regarding how the Office for Civil Rights protects students from discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics may be found here.

Employees of faith-based and community-based nonprofits are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Borrowers who are employed by, the military, federal, state, Tribal, or local government, and many non-profits may be eligible to have their student loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Under normal PSLF rules, borrowers must make 120 payments on a Direct Loan while on a qualifying repayment plan and employed by a qualifying public service employer. For a limited time, the Department of Education is waiving some of the rules and allowing borrowers to get credit for past periods of repayment that normally don’t qualify for PSLF. These time-limited changes expire on October 31, 2022. After that, normal PSLF rules will apply. That means if you haven’t already applied for PSLF, you must submit a PSLF form and/or consolidate your non-Direct federal student loans by October 31 to take advantage of the waiver. For more information on PSLF eligibility and requirements, go to

Borrowers seeking to determine whether their not-for-profit work qualifies for PSLF can use the Department’s employer eligibility tool. But don’t panic if your employer is listed as “undetermined” or “likely ineligible.” That may indicate that we simply have not added the employer to our database yet. We’ve found that many smaller, local governmental organizations and smaller faith-based nonprofit organizations aren’t in our database yet.

Rest assured—if you are an employee of a local or state government entity or a 501(c)(3) non-profit, your employer will qualify. Also, if you work for a house of worship or similar not-for-profit organization that is tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code but does not have an IRS determination letter, it can still be considered a qualifying employer. Some other non-profits can also qualify if they provide a qualifying public service. Employees of not-for-profit organizations whose job duties include religious activities, such as clergy, are also considered eligible.

If your employer is listed as “undetermined,” use the PSLF Help Tool to generate your PSLF form, and your employer will be reviewed by our employer adjudication team. If you upload a W-2 or other supporting documentation with your form, it can help our research and review, and we can use your submission to add your employer to our database for future use.

Over 211,000 borrowers have already had their loans forgiven through the PSLF waiver and over a million more are closer to forgiveness. Don’t wait, take advantage of this opportunity before the waiver expires on October 31, 2022. Even if you have not been in repayment for 10 years, you can keep working towards PSLF after that. For more information on the limited PSLF waiver, click here.


Please note that PSLF is PSLF is different from the one-time student loan debt relief of up to $20,000. PSLF is a program for people who work in public service in federal, state, tribal, or local government, or for a non-profit organization. Borrowers can apply for both PSLF and one-time debt relief. Learn more about one-time debt relief here.

Student Debt Relief

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to tackling the student debt crisis by providing critical support to student borrowers and advancing racial equity through targeted student debt relief. On August 24th, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a Student Debt Relief Plan that will result in approximately 20 million borrowers being relieved of all student debt, along with millions more who will see their debt burden significantly reduced. As part of this program, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will provide up to $20,000 in student debt relief to Federal Pell Grant recipients, and up to $10,000 in debt relief for all others. The program is targeted to provide the most benefit to those with the most need and will be extended to any borrowers with debt held by ED whose individual annual income is less than $125,000, or less than $250,000 for households. It will additionally help fight the racial wealth gap­ – nearly 71% of Black undergraduate borrowers and 65% of Latino undergraduate borrowers are Pell Grant recipients. Sign up at the Department of Education subscription page to be notified when the process has officially opened. You’ll have until December 31st, 2023, to apply.

Read more about the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to student borrowers here.

United We Stand Summit

On September 15, President Biden hosted the United We Stand Summit at the White House to counter the corrosive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety. The Summit honored the resilience of communities healing from hateful attacks, including mass shootings, from Oak Creek to Orlando, Charleston, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, and beyond. The Summit brought together 21 Uniters from across America who are leading work in their communities to build bridges and address hate and division, including survivors of hate-fueled violence.

Biden also announced the White House Initiative on Hate-Motivated Violence. The new Initiative will strengthen interagency coordination in preventing and responding to hate-motivated violence, leverage federal research, and resources, and enhance engagement and consultation with diverse stakeholders, including communities targeted for who they are or what they believe. This includes coordination between the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support educational authorities and educational institutions, in order to improve their ability to prevent hate-based threats and bullying and to recover from hate-based violence.
Communities across the country watched the summit live and engaged in a national conversation about standing together against hate-fueled violence.

To learn more about the Summit and watch the video visit

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Two New Actions to Address Youth Mental Health Crisis

Rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among youth were on the rise even before the pandemic, and now our nation’s youth face an unprecedented mental health crisis. In July the Biden-Harris Administration announced two new actions to strengthen school-based mental health services and address the youth mental health crisis: 1) The U.S. Department of Education is disbursing the first of nearly $300 million the President secured through the FY2022 bipartisan omnibus agreement to expand access to mental health services in schools; and 2) In a letter sent to governors across the country, the Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services highlighted federal resources available to states and schools to invest in mental health services for students.

An additional $1.7 billion for mental health is headed to our schools and communities thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) signed by President Biden last month.

Read more about the Department’s plans to address the youth mental health crisis here.