The Biden Department of Education outlined Wednesday how it will spend the “American Rescue Plan’s historic funding for schools” in order to advance “equity” as a central focus of education in the nation’s public schools.
“This is our moment as educators and as leaders to transform our education systems so they are truly serving all of our nation’s students,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, adding:
While COVID-19 has worsened many inequities in our schools and communities, we know that even before the pandemic, a high-quality education was out of reach for too many of our nation’s students and families. Our mission at the Department is to safely reopen schools for in-person learning, dramatically increase investments in communities that for too long have been furthest from opportunity, and reimagine our schools so that all students have their needs met. We must take bold action together to ensure our nation’s schools are defined not by disparities, but by equity and opportunity for all.
School communities must put equity at the center of all work to reopen safely. The #AmericanRescuePlan's investments in education will address service (academic, SEL, etc) gaps that have been exacerbated by #COVID19 so that the new school year begins with students best supported. pic.twitter.com/QkgIHncQHj
— U.S. Department of Education (@usedgov) June 5, 2021
The education department said its announcements “are part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to implement President Biden’s Day One Executive Order to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities across the federal government and build our schools and communities back better than before the pandemic.”
Some public schools have lost students to private, religious, and homeschooling when attempts to introduce remote learning often failed during the pandemic and teachers’ unions blocked the reopening of K-12 schools for in-person learning.
The department states it has released a report that will show the coronavirus pandemic delivered “disparate impacts” on students in “underserved communities”:
Observations from the report include impacts of the pandemic on both K-12 and postsecondary education students, including how COVID-19 has deepened pre-pandemic disparities in access and opportunities facing students of color, multilingual learners, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students, with significant impacts on their learning. The report also discusses how many students have lost access to mental health services during the pandemic, with early research showing disparities in negative mental-health impacts based on students’ race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identity, and other factors. Additionally, the report includes data discussing how the pandemic has caused heightened risk of harassment, discrimination, and other harms for Asian American and Pacific Islander students, and recognizes that the pandemic may have put students at heightened risk of sexual harassment, abuse and violence – particularly girls, women, and students who are transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.
Additionally, the Biden education department will launch a virtual “Equity Summit Series,” beginning June 22 and continuing over the coming months, that aims to urge schools to “infuse equity into all of their work.”
According to the department:
The first installment of the series will explore how schools and communities can reimagine our school systems so that every student has a voice in their school and classroom, particularly students from underserved communities, including communities of color, students with disabilities, and multilingual learners. The event will also feature discussions on how all students can access a high-quality education responsive to their needs, and how schools can create more culturally and linguistically responsive and inclusive learning environments for all students.
Looking forward to even more federal funding, the department stated that, in addition to the “historic resources” provided by the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget is planning for $36.5 billion in grants for Title I schools (mostly low-income families), an amount that represents a $20 billion increase from the previous year’s enacted amount.