American Rescue Plan will ‘change lives,’ educators say
President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan and the $130 billion included for education represent far more than a COVID relief bill, K-12 advocates say.
“This law, in one fell swoop, provides a critical next step forward in safely getting and keeping schools open, stabilizing the nation’s economy, and cutting child poverty in half,” Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, said in a statement.
The Rescue Plan contains $123 billion for a new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. State educational agencies must 90% of those funds received onto local educational agencies.
Districts will surely use the fund to make physical upgrades, such as expanding broadband access and improving air quality in schools, Domenech said.
“Looming large, though, are the largely invisible needs: tackling learning loss, implementing with equity, supporting and addressing mental health and social emotional needs for staff and students, and much, much more,” Domenech said.
Other education leaders lauded the bill for its goal of cutting child poverty in half.
“This legislation will change lives almost immediately,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “It invests in the testing and vaccination plans needed to reopen school buildings for safe in-person learning and provides necessary relief for small businesses as well as child care and healthcare assistance.”
The Rescue Plan is “more than a COVID-19 relief bill,” Weingarten added.
“It aims to cut child poverty nearly in half, expand unemployment insurance, and bring unprecedented economic assistance to retirees, working people, older and younger Americans alike,” she said. “This legislation is a down payment on the American spirit, and on our collective resiliency as we recover and rebuild.”
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The Rescue Plan should also drive a more equitable recovery, National Education Association President Becky Pringle said.
It requires states to spend funds on “evidence-based activities” to address learning loss, such as enhanced summer school programs and extended school days and school years.
Funds must also be spent on summer enrichment program that addresses academic, social, and emotional needs for students disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“This historic legislation … makes extraordinary investments that will lift countless children and families out of poverty and works to address the immense inequities that have systematically affected the most vulnerable students and communities of color,” Pringle said.
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