How Federal COVID Relief Dollars Are Helping States and Districts Invest in Early Education

The following article by Vasilisa Smith and Aaron Loewenberg originally appeared on the New America website on Oct. 13, 2022.
In March of 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which included an unprecedented $122 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund (known as ESSER III). Like previous ESSER investments, these funds were provided to state educational agencies and school districts to address safe school reopening and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on students, requiring an emphasis on addressing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on students of color.

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Making Sound and Resourceful Investments to Improve School Facilities in Rural America

This piece is authored by Jalen Woodard, EducationCounsel’s 2022 summer intern. The views and recommendations stated above are his own.
The carpeted hallways in my high school stunk of mildew when it rained. Droplets from ceiling cracks dotted our desks and splattered our notebooks. A small bucket stood guard near the teacher’s desk under a gaping hole. It wasn’t until I began traveling to neighboring districts for quiz bowl competitions that I realized the dimly lit scene of my classroom stood in stark contrast to the clean, modern classrooms that our opponents may have taken for granted. I wondered: Why? Why were my classmates and I forced to learn in classrooms with moldy floors and leaky ceilings? And why was it taking so long for my school administrators to make the repairs?

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Leveraging Federal Dollars to Build Early Childhood Systems

The following article by Elysa Cash and Danielle Ewen originally appeared on the New America website on Dec. 15, 2021
In response to the increased needs of families, children, and educators across the country, public education has experienced a significant influx of federal funding throughout the pandemic. In addition to funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the support from schools and communities, leaders building birth-to-third grade systems should know of the flexibility of the federal programs already in place.

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Interview with Rebecca Steinhoff: How Wyoming is Thinking About Effective and Supportive Kindergarten Transitions

The following article by Davida McDonald originally appeared on the New America website on Dec. 13, 2021
Wyoming has developed a statewide Early Childhood Strategic Plan that directs families, early childhood and K-12 educators and administrators, communities, and state officials to collaborate to thoughtfully connect children’s relationships, environments, and experiences during early childhood. The plan also directs Wyoming to execute effective and supportive policies and practices that recognize the essential need to support young children and families before, during, and after times of transition, especially the transition into the first year of elementary school.

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Five Things to Know about the ARP

The following was created in partnership with the Wallace Foundation and originally appeared on its blog on August 4, 2021.
Earlier this year, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, the federal government’s third major COVID-19 relief bill. The law provides nearly $2 trillion to support the nation’s efforts to reopen and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Included is more than $126 billion for K-12 schools and additional funding for early childhood and higher education.
These are historic levels of K-12 funding, far surpassing the amounts in previous pandemic relief bills, and they go well beyond annual federal K-12 education investments. Moreover, the relief package could have an impact well into the future, as districts and states are allowed to spend their allotments through September 2024—enabling them to identify and develop solutions that meet immediate needs and seed long-term, evidence-based shifts to better promote equity and improved outcomes.

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Raising the Voices of African American Girls Who Have Been Mistreated in Their Schools

Girls are often told they can be anything they want to be, but what is rarely said is that what they look like matters greatly. African American girls are one of the most at-risk student groups in the United States, and often face substantial barriers to reaching their full potential. In Michigan, a 15-year-old African American girl was incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic because she violated her probation by not completing her schoolwork. In Sacramento, a 9-year-old African American girl was suspended and kicked out of her virtual classroom because she was asking too many questions via the chat section. This treatment is not isolated or limited to the classroom. In the 2017-2018 school year, African American girls were four times more likely to be expelled, four times more likely to be suspended from school, and five times more likely to be arrested than Caucasian girls.

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Contracts Can Support the Child Care Workforce but Require Thinking outside the Box

This post was originally published on Urban Wire, the blog of the Urban Institute.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the child care and early childhood education (CC/ECE) workforce has faced severe instability. Lower enrollment, income loss, higher operating costs, and increased fears of health risks, combined with preexisting challenges, including low pay, inadequate benefits, high turnover rates, and demanding work, have left the field in turmoil. These challenges are acute for Black, Latina, and Native American providers, who make up more than 35 percent of the (PDF) CC/ECE workforce. To prevent permanent job loss and damage to a field dominated by women of color, states must act now to stabilize and support the CC/ECE workforce.

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Two Opportunities for States to Support More Thoughtful School District Recovery Plans

In public school districts across the nation we see the familiar June images of high school seniors celebrating, teachers grading projects and final exams, and superintendents…drafting plans to spend billions of new dollars?!?
Yes, strategic planning is ramping up just as the school year is winding down. To help districts meet this critical moment, there are two small but important things state education agencies (SEAs) can do in their soon-to-be-submitted American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) plans. These opportunities arise from recent clarifications by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) about how SEAs and local education agencies (LEAs) can approach figuring out how best to use new federal resources to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the big new pot of ARP funds.

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Transforming the Education Sector into a Learning System: Perspectives from the Field and Recommendations for Action

In 2019, we made the case for why our education agenda must prioritize adopting a learning systems approach in education at all levels, and we articulated a framework for what such a system should look like and include.
More recently and in collaboration with Carnegie Corporation of New York, we attempted to answer the question of how we begin to make and accelerate these shifts, drawing on the insights and experiences of those leaders in the field doing the hard work to create a learning systems approach in their own contexts. The research for this paper reinforced an important lesson for anyone seeking to advance a learning system approach: we must be learners ourselves, adjusting our strategies in response to new information. This includes understanding how our theories are playing out in reality, including the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the economic crisis as well as ongoing challenges to racial justice in our schools and communities.

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Immediate Actions Policymakers Could Take to Support the CC/ECE Workforce

Immediate Actions Policymakers Could Take to Support the CC/ECE Workforce
By Gina Adams, Danielle Ewen, and Grace Luetmer
As COVID-19 began to spread in the United States last March, many child care centers and home-based child care providers closed. And although providers have slowly begun to return to work, as of December, the workforce is still nearly 20 percent smaller than it was before the pandemic.
When compared with the 6 percent national drop in employment over the same time period, the challenges facing the child care field are clear. These massive job losses plague a workforce already beset with low wages and challenging working conditions.
And because the child care/early childhood education (CC/ECE) field is disproportionately composed of Black and Latina women, who face inequitable opportunities and significant wage gaps, this crisis has had a major impact on the earnings and career trajectories of many women of color.

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