COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF ASSISTANT SPEAKER KATHERINE CLARK
Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark, MA-5, and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, CT-5, recently introduced the Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act to form a $100 billion application-based grant program to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting consequences in the education system.
The bill invests in solutions to learning loss and addresses students’ social, emotional, mental, and behavioral needs that were exacerbated by this unprecedented crisis. Senators Warren, Markey, Blumenthal and Murphy introduced companion legislation in the Senate earlier this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school closures, learning loss, behavioral health issues, and social and physical disconnection onto our nation’s students,” said Clark. “In order to address the resulting achievement gaps and mental health needs for low-income students and students of color, we have to make bold investments in our public education system. This legislation will create a $100 billion grant program to allow schools to implement both time-tested and creative new ideas to put all students back on track for success.”
“Chronic underfunding of our education system is failing our students. As an educator, I witnessed massive inequities in the classroom — issues that have been alarmingly compounded by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Hayes. “While the American Rescue Plan provided historic funding to local schools, more needs to be done to combat the setbacks that have caused children to struggle in school. This bill responds by increasing funding streams to help schools support social and emotional learning, address learning loss, and recruit a diverse educator workforce. Connecticut and Massachusetts have led the nation in the response to COVID-19, so it is fitting that my New England colleagues have joined me to lead legislation that invests in students on the other side of this crisis.”
Researchers have estimated that school closures in the spring resulted in several months of lost instruction in math and reading, and one study estimated that between 10 and 25% of high-risk students, including homeless students and students with disabilities, have been completely disconnected from school since the pandemic began. The effects of the pandemic on students’ mental health are not yet well understood, but are expected to have long-term consequences for social and emotional well-being. Data show that more school funding improves student achievement. This is especially crucial for low-income communities and communities of color, which have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The consequences of the pandemic for children’s academic and social development are likely to be long-term; children in first grade this year may need additional support throughout their academic careers.
The bill will improve the approach to address students’ social, emotional, mental, behavioral and physical health needs related to COVID-19.
States, school districts, nonprofits in partnership with school districts and the Bureau of Indian Education can apply for grants for one of two purposes:
- Implement Evidence-based Strategies: 75% of funds are reserved for grantees to adopt programs that meet a high bar of evidence, such as supporting social-emotional learning, implementing culturally and linguistically responsive practices, extending instructional time and implementing high-quality individual or small-group tutoring.
- Support Field- and Educator-Initiated Innovations: 25% of funds are reserved for grantees to develop or replicate new ideas and strategies designed by educators in the field to accelerate academic progress and address social, emotional, mental, behavioral and physical health needs associated with COVID-19. Grantees must include an independent evaluation for efficacy.
This legislation reserves funds for the Bureau of Indian Education, rural areas and applicants serving low-income students. The department must also give priority to applicants serving disproportionately higher percentages of high-need students, including low-income students, students of color and Native American students, homeless students, migrant students, students in foster care, English learners, students with disabilities and students most affected by COVID-19.
The Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act is endorsed by the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, the Education Trust, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, National Urban League, Healthy Schools Campaign, American Student Assistance, Committee for Children, National Women’s Law Center, Peekapak Inc., SEL4US, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, AFT Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, MA Parent Teacher Association, MA Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs and the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs.