President Biden unveiled his administration’s first legislative priority in a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that pushes $130 billion to reopen schools in 100 days in a quest to get the pandemic under control and mitigate the economic and social impact on the country. While he intends to get bipartisan support of this package, Democrats hold 50 seats in the Senate with the newly sworn-in Ossoff and Warnock from Georgia.
Here are some key points outlined in the proposal for schools:
-The legislation allocates $130 billion to aid schools in reopening and to safely have in-person learning.
-Schools have the flexibility to spend the money by reducing class sizes, improving ventilation, hiring more cleaning staff, implementing mitigation practices, and modifying spaces to ensure social distancing.
-There is also money for schools to provide more PPE wear, access to a nurse in every school, reformatting the capacity of transportation vehicles, hiring school counselors, and monies to address the digital divide for students to access the internet.
There will be funding would be reserved for a COVID-19 Educational Equity Challenge Grant, which would focus on partnerships between state, local, and tribal governments and teachers, parents, and other education or community organizations that address pandemic challenges through an equity lens.
While there has been much talk about the academic loss by students over the last 10 months, districts would use the funds to address the learning lost for the most vulnerable students (i.e. students with disablities, income, and ESOL students.).
-To address the digital divide, there is money to provide summer school and to compensate for lost learning and creating and expanding community schools.
While this is goal is lofty, there”s another $5 billion to address programs and students’ needs that have been impacted by COVID-19. While there’s plenty of money for K-12, there’s another $35 billion sent to public higher education institutions such as historically black colleges and community colleges.
Finally, under Biden’s plan, there is an allotment of $5 billion for the “Hardest Hit Education Fund,” which would allow state governors to focus extra dollars on students hit the hardest by the pandemic in the areas of early education, K-12, and higher education settings.
Biden has pledged all of this with the plan to open the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his administration.