Sneak Preview: ED Adds Opportunity Zones Priority for Applicants

Jerry Ashworth
December 19, 2019 at 13:25:35 ET
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(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Development Handbook.) The Department of Education (ED) recently finalized a new priority for applications submitted under the department’s discretionary grant programs that would provide bonus points for entities that conduct their work, or are located, in Opportunity Zones.

ED promotes numerous priorities and definitions for its discretionary grant programs to further its mission, which is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” In a Nov. 27 Federal Register notice, ED stated that it was adopting as final, with no changes, a July 29 proposed priority to align its discretionary grant investments and the Trump administration’s Opportunity Zones initiative. The priority becomes effective on Dec. 27.

Opportunity Zones are economically distressed communities with substantially higher rates of unemployment, lower rates of educational attainment, lower median household income and higher poverty rates, on average, than the rest of the nation. ED expects this new priority to ensure its programs support high-quality projects that serve diverse urban and rural communities, as well as enhance its ability to efficiently target funds to these economically distressed areas. Governors nationwide have selected more than 8,700 Opportunity Zones with diverse characteristics.

“We want to ensure federal dollars have the maximum positive impact on the students and communities that need it most,” said ED Secretary Betsy DeVos. “Through the Opportunity Zones priority, we can focus our discretionary resources on projects that will spur innovative approaches to education in areas of the country that are all too often left behind.”

Applicants will still need to develop compelling projects and compete alongside other applicants, but they may get additional bonus points for projects connected to these low-income communities.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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