The highly contagious and hard to detect nature of COVID-19 forced all students into remote-learning environments for the tail end of the 2019-2020 school year, a set up that will continue in the fall. This drastic change in how schools operate leads to complicated effects on teaching and learning, the well-being of students, and school funding.
According to the Learning Policy Institute, citing the U.S. census, around 47% of K-12 public education comes from state governments that overwhelmingly get their revenue from sales and income tax - both of which are expected to decrease due to the economic slowdown created to stop the spread of the coronavirus. According to economists and education scholars, significant school budget cuts may become a reality. At a time when educational systems need more support than ever, schools must use available funding to ensure they have access to tools and services that can be used with in-person and distance learning, build the capacity of their educators, quickly measure unfinished learning, and above all else, support students emotional and physical health – while ensuring equity for all.
The first extensive stimulus package aimed at addressing the crisis, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, included:
- $13.2 billion for state and local governments to fund continued K-12 education, including student learning, professional development, preparedness and response, and sanitation, despite the disruptions that the coronavirus brought to the classroom,
- $100 million for the School Emergency Relief to Violence Project,
- $3 billion for governors to ensure continued education,
- $180 million in the form of competitive grants, named the Rethink K-12 Education Model Grants, meant to support those developing new and innovative ways to continue education remotely,
- $8.8 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the National School Lunch Program, and
- $25 million to support distance learning and broadband access in rural areas.
Additionally, several nongovernmental education organizations, such as the National Education Association and the Association of American Educators, are offering financial aid for professional development and materials.
The pandemic has shined a light on the growing digital divide, insufficient training for teachers, and lack of mental health and social emotional support for students. School districts apply to their states for CARES funding and can use the money for activities already authorized by Department of Education, responses to COVID-19, and to prepare for long-term school closures. More specifically, schools will be looking to invest in addressing the needs of under-served students (such as low-income students, students with disabilities, or English language learners), technology tools, sanitation supplies, and training for teachers.
However, the CARES Act was signed into law before massive school closures and remote learning plans were expected to remain a reality in the fall. Educators are now expecting more out of the federal government to help schools adjusting to this new normal. On May 5th, 2020, a letter addressed to majority and minority leaders of both the House and the Senate written by education organizations advocates for $175 billion for states to balance budgets and continue to fully support public education. The letter was signed by the School Superintendents Association and the American Federation of Teachers, among others. The Democratic-lead House of Representatives passed an added stimulus bill, entitled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions or HEROES Act, that includes $90 billion for the U.S. Department of Education. It also includes $1.5 billion of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) fund Wi-Fi hotspots, electronic devices, and telecommunications services as well as $4 billion of FCC funding for expanding broadband, all of which could be used for remote learning. Lawmakers have also introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act which provides $2 billion for tech devices and internet access. The Senate introduced a similar bill that would allocate $4 billion for technology to support remote learning.
With so much uncertainty, many school and district leaders may feel unprepared for re-opening of schools. Equity-based technology challenges may plague schools that are engaging in a full or hybrid model of distance learning. School and district leaders will need a variety of tools and training to become more prepared to teach remotely, attend to learning loss, and address the diverse needs of students. Though it remains uncertain if any additional federal funding bill for education will be passed, it is unlikely that that without A strong support network of district and school leaders, parents, educational organizations, and local communities, will enable educators to make a stable transition into the fall, regardless of the uncertain federal funding future.
We’re Ready to Help
CenterPoint Education Solutions has always focused on the importance of high-quality, aligned tools and supports for schools and districts across the country, and can apply our expertise to help education leaders manage the drastic changes to the K-12 landscape. Our Professional development solutions are focused on unpacking and deeply understanding standards as well as how to use assessment data to inform and drive instruction. These services are offered virtually, pre-recorded, or live, while maintaining an emphasis on collaboration and engagement. The professional development solutions offered by CenterPoint go together with our assessment and curriculum review services.
The need for education companies to provide resources in order to engage with students and other teachers in distance learning environments has become obvious, as schools are looking to spend their funds to prepare themselves for the still uncertain future and continuously changing scenarios of K-12 education. Another way the CARES Act funds can be used is to purchase web-based assessment tools that can quickly identify students' knowledge and skills, and where they will need added support. At CenterPoint, our experts help schools and districts with the design, development, and analysis of high-quality standards aligned assessments. These ELA and mathematics interim and diagnostic assessment products can help pinpoint what students know and how to accelerate their learning.
Contact CenterPoint to discuss your specific needs for the fall.