AERA Provides Comment on OMB RFI on Advancing Equity through Government
AERA Provides Comment on OMB RFI on Advancing Equity through Government

July 2021

On July 6, AERA submitted comments in response to a request for information (RFI) from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) seeking input on leading methods and best practices to advance equity through government.

The RFI builds on the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government that President Biden issued in January. The executive order directed OMB to conduct a study to identify best methods for federal agencies to assess equity, and for federal agencies to conduct equity assessments to determine any barriers or gaps faced by underserved communities to programs and services.

OMB sought information on topics within five broad areas covered by the executive order: equity assessment and strategies, barrier and burden reduction, procurement and contracting, financial assistance, and stakeholder and community engagement.

“We greatly appreciate the leadership that the Office of Management and Budget and the Biden administration are taking to help ensure that federal agencies are using an equity-focused lens in administering programs,” wrote AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine in the response.

The AERA comments focused on the need for timely and relevant data for determining where disparities and inequities exist in education and in the scientific workforce. Recommendations included implementing the framework for equity indicators in education from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Monitoring Educational Equity report, shifting the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection from a biennial collection to an annual collection, and including data on LGBTQ+ populations in data sets from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. AERA recommended additional funding and flexibility for hiring staff across federal statistical agencies to enable the expansion of these data sets and linkages of data across sectors to inform holistic policies and practices.

In addition, the comments highlighted promising programs in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) that are seeking to increase diversity and equity among education researchers and in the STEM workforce. Examples of these programs are the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program at IES, and NSF INCLUDES.

The comments also raised the need for federal research agencies to be able to gauge whether traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM, including women, persons of color, and persons with disabilities, are represented as recipients of research grants. While research grantees are asked to voluntarily provide demographic information, many choose not to disclose. In the comments, AERA recommended working with stakeholder communities to encourage sharing of demographic data.

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