The new year started out with some much needed new funding for schools. As 2020 came to a close, a COVID-19 relief package providing more than $54 billion in direct aid to K-12 schools was finally passed by Congress. That’s about four times the amount allotted to schools back in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic.
It’s clear that as the pandemic has intensified, so have the needs of schools.
PDF Breakdown of the Stimulus Package
To help you plan, we offer a printable pdf with a breakdown of the stimulus package, including when the funds will be released and how they can be used to support digital learning.
Schools need to continue to be flexible with remote and hybrid learning. They need to ensure that all students have the right hardware, digital curriculum resources, and access to wifi necessary to learn at home. The shutdown of schools has exposed a wide access gap that is surely leading to a widening achievement gap. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, apart from the funding to schools, the relief package also provides $9 billion to expand broadband access.
One teacher told me during a Teacher Talk webinar we held last fall that when one of her students was having connectivity issues, she told her to try a different room in the apartment. The student responded, “My family doesn’t pay enough rent to use the living room.”
These funds for schools can’t bridge that kind of gap, but they can provide tools and resources to make digital learning more equitable.
Approved Usages of the Stimulus Package Funding
Here are some approved uses of the new funding as it relates to technology:
- Hardware and software needed to conduct remote learning
- Any tool or program that addresses specific needs of disadvantaged students, including those living in poverty and those learning English
- Evidence-based approaches to addressing student learning loss, including assessments
You can look at your specific state’s allocation of funds on this chart provided by The National Association of Elementary School Principals. The package covers many other needs schools have, including addressing students’ mental health and improving school preparedness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we teach and the way students learn. While we all are hoping for a swift return to “normal” following the pandemic, the virus has altered the education landscape. And it’s heartening to see more federal support for schools as they navigate meeting the needs of all students in what is sure to become the “new normal.”