U.S. Department of Education establishes Government Coordinating Council to enhance cybersecurity in schools

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have jointly announced the launch of the Government Coordinating Council (GCC) for the Education Facilities Subsector. This collaborative effort is a significant advancement in bolstering cybersecurity within K-12 educational institutions. The council’s establishment signifies a unique level of cooperation among federal, state, tribal, and local entities to safeguard schools against cyber threats. It falls under the Government Facilities Sector, one of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified in Presidential Policy Directive 21.

Recent years have seen a surge in the complexity of cybersecurity challenges facing K-12 educational institutions, with school districts nationwide being targeted by ransomware attacks and data breaches. These incidents have led to school closures and the exposure of sensitive data on students, families, and staff. The establishment of the GCC is a direct response to these threats, aiming to enhance the resilience and security of the K-12 digital infrastructure through structured dialogue and the sharing of best practices.

“The GCC reflects our unwavering commitment to safeguarding the cybersecurity of our schools,” stated U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten during her address to K-12 educational leaders. “This initiative marks a significant step in formalizing the collaboration between federal, state, and local educational leaders in protecting our critical K-12 infrastructure.”

This joint initiative builds upon the substantial progress achieved by the Department in partnership with CISA, the FBI, and other federal agencies. The launch of the GCC follows the “Back to School Safely” K-12 Cybersecurity Summit held by First Lady Jill Biden at the White House in August, reinforcing the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive approach to addressing cyber incident prevention, mitigation, and recovery in K-12 schools.

“Safeguarding our schools, students, and educators from cyber threats is of paramount importance—I commend the Department of Education and CISA for their critical work in this area, collaborating closely with the K-12 community,” remarked CISA Director Jen Easterly. “I am particularly pleased about the official launch of the Education Facilities Subsector Government Coordinating Council today; it will play a crucial role in guiding efforts toward creating a safer and more resilient learning environment in classrooms nationwide.”

The inaugural meeting of the GCC convened a diverse array of educational stakeholders, including technology experts, superintendents, school principals, and representatives from state and educational service agencies, to delineate the council’s goals and strategic direction.

The establishment of the GCC represents a significant achievement in implementing the National Cybersecurity Strategy, promising a more secure future for students, teachers, and communities across the nation. The Department of Education remains dedicated to collaborating with federal, state, and local partners to enhance cybersecurity measures and ensure that schools continue to provide safe and supportive learning environments for all students.

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