At long last, Connecticut is anticipated to receive another infusion of federal pandemic relief funds to stabilize K-12 schools in the next few weeks. According to our early estimates of the COVID-19 Phase IV Relief Omnibus Education Funding Package, Connecticut is likely to be allocated approximately $456 Million from the K-12 Stabilization Fund and $12 Million from the Governor’s Fund. These dollars are largely intended to support local districts and can be spent on a plethora of activities, including addressing the needs of historically under-served student subgroups, summer learning and after school programming, sanitation, mental health services, and closing the digital divide. We recognize that a bulk of the funds will be spent on stabilization after this crisis, but at least a quarter should be directed towards innovation that will meet this unusual moment and serve as an investment in the future.
So just how should the funds be meaningfully directed? We recommend that at least a quarter of the new resources be directed towards four important goals that will both address the pandemic and have a long-term impact on the equity of our public school system.
Given that Connecticut is so far ahead in closing the digital divide, and rather than take a business-as-usual approach, the state needs a strategic plan to assure support for students, families, and teachers in this recovery; to stabilize local districts; and to address education inequities that have been exacerbated by the public health crisis. Instead of only plugging short-term deficits, the state can use these federal dollars to encourage districts to work towards greater education equity now.