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Questions Remain Despite Renewal of Presidential Advisory Commissions on Educational Initiatives

Trump's order extends three President's Advisory Commissions focused on educational opportunities for communities of color.
Image: White House Hosts Innovators At First "South By South Lawn" Gathering
The White House is seen during the South by South Lawn, a White House festival of ideas, art, and action, October 3, 2016 at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC.Alex Wong / Getty Images

President Trump last week reauthorized three groups charged with making recommendations to the White House on issues from education to immigration that affect communities of color.

Trump signed an executive order on Friday, one day before the previously-designated Sept. 30, 2017 deadline, extending the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, and the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

The news surprised Patricia Gándara, a UCLA professor serving on the Educational Excellence for Hispanics commission.

“I’m fascinated by it because, of course, there’s been no communication with us, so I actually don’t know what my or any of the commissioners’ actual status would be at this point, whether we completed our terms as of this weekend,” Gándara told NBC News by phone Monday.

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The commissions are considered federal advisory committees, of which there are more than 1,000. As diverse as they are many, the groups are viewed as a conduit between government and citizen. Members provide expert advice on issues from education to healthcare, technology to the environment.

The executive order carries the commissions, along with a number of other advisory committees, all the way through to Sept. 30, 2019.

NBC News asked the White House in an email Monday whether new commissioners had been appointed, whether there was an appointment timetable, and whether Obama-era appointees would meet in the interim.

A spokesperson responded, “We have no personnel announcements at this time.”

Several Obama-era commissioners told NBC News last month that the three commissions hadn’t formally met since Trump was inaugurated in January. Each is associated with a White House initiative housed under the Department of Education. Commissioners are appointed by the president.

Since Trump’s swearing in, new executive directors have not been named to any of the three commissions, though each initiative continues to exist and operate with staff members in place. In February, two-thirds of the AAPI commission resigned in protest of Trump's policies.

All three White House initiatives were established during previous administrations. Their associated commissions have been tasked with a number of responsibilities, among them making recommendations on how to close the student achievement gap and preparing briefs on issues like immigration and improving language access to federal programs.

The president, after receiving recommendations, reports to Congress how he’ll respond or why he won’t take action.

“I would hope that [the Trump administration] would appoint similar individuals who are experienced, thoughtful, and really have the interests of these communities at heart — and listen to them,” Gándara said.