The U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $180 million in grant funding to 11 states rethinking education to better serve students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Awardees include Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. Several states will offer microgrants to parents to access multiple remote-learning options from multiple providers, allowing them to tailor the educational experience to each child’s needs. Additionally, many states will use the grant funding to develop and expand their course access program or virtual school.
The House recently passed a package of bills called the Return to Learn plan. The Senate is expected to act in August on the legislation.
- School closures have impacted all students’ learning, particularly those students who are on the wrong side of the digital divide whether through lack of access to devices or the Internet. HB 5910 requires schools to ensure in their e-learning plans that students have Wi-Fi access and tablets, and that teachers receive professional development in online learning. These safeguards will ensure that students who did not previously have access to digital learning can be successful.
- To prepare for further disruptions in learning, HB 5911 seeks to expand Michigan’s online course offerings. The goal is to ensure all students in Michigan have access to the courses they need to become college and career ready. It also allows for more course providers to participate, such as state universities and virtual schools.
- Flexibility around seat time and school calendar days is also essential to the new reality of students’ learning environments. House Bill 5913 expands the state’s definition for attendance to give schools more flexibility to innovate in their instructional offerings. Additionally, the bill requires schools to administer benchmark assessments at the beginning of the school year to help educators direct instruction and remediation for learning loss.
Companion bills HB 2696, sponsored by Rep. Owlett, and SB 1230, sponsored by Sen. Ward, would create a new Back on Track Education Savings Account Program for an estimated 500,000 low-income students. This legislation would provide $1,000 in a restricted-use account for families to use on approved purchases such as tuition, curriculum resources, tutoring and online classes. The proposal utilizes CARES Act funding to allow parents to address their child’s specific needs during this time of disrupted learning.