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A virtual forum on Higher Ed's response to COVID-19, the federal CARES Act, + widening inequities

During this period in which the latest news is primarily focused on COVID-19, our “Social Distance” editions will look at the manner in which the public health crisis is impacting public education, children, and families in Connecticut and nationwide.


INVITATION: Virtual Forum on CT Higher Ed Response to COVID-19 TOMORROW Our affiliate organization, Education Reform Now CT, has set up a forum (via conference call) about how CT colleges are meeting the needs of students from low-income families as they undertake remote learning programs. Please mark your calendars for the call tomorrow.


Impact of the Federal CARES Act on K-16 Ed

On Friday, March 27th, President Trump signed into law a third stimulus package in response to COVID-19. The CARES Act allocates $30.75B in Education Stabilization funds, which notably includes $13.2B directed towards an Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund and $14B for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund will distribute funding to states and districts based on existing allocations of Title I funding. An additional $3B is set aside for governors to issue subgrants to institutions of higher education, targeting those that are most significantly impacted by coronavirus and those that need emergency educational services. For K-12, the CARES Act also expedites the process of securing state waivers for assessments and accountability measures. (Expect to hear more on these waivers from us in the near future!) The Higher Education Relief Fund sets aside $1B for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other minority serving institutions, and institutions that serve larger percentages of full-time Pell Grant students. Institutions that receive such funds must distribute at least half directly to their students (to cover costs such as food, child care, healthcare, and housing displacement). The CARES Act additionally provides student loan relief in the form of a 6-month moratorium on federal Direct Loans with no accrual of interest. It also allows schools to turn unused work-study funds into supplemental education opportunity grants for students.

Will Distance Learning Cause Wider Gaps?

With the first wave of important governmental measures targeting public health, nutrition, and economic realities—it's now time for American school systems to tackle meeting students' long-term instructional needs during. "Are the students really learning or just being given busywork?"—asks The Washington Post's Editorial Board in an article that highlights Success Academy in New York as an exemplar for distance learning, contrasted with unclear and inconsistent guidance on remote learning from several other jurisdictions. Here in CT, we’re also seeing disparate approaches to implementation between and within public school districts. Some suburban districts have launched their online programming already; some are offering“soft” distance learning plans to gauge student responses; and others are planning to let students set their own pace. But there are also large, urban districts that began at a significant disadvantage, having to first address unequal access to devices and the internet. If school closures become the new normal, many are observing that already-deep educational inequities are being exacerbated by this public health crisis.

New Hires for Our National Office

The DFER family welcomes two significant new hires in the D.C. and NY chapters! DFER DC announced last week that it had hired Ramin Taheri as its new State Director. Formerly the Director of Advocacy and Policy for Chiefs for Change, Ramin has also worked as a senior-policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration, and in the office of the Mayor in DC. Then, on Monday, our New York chapter announced that it had appointed former Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran as its new State Director. Crisanta served for eight years in the Colorado legislature, stepping down at the end of her term limit in 2019, after leading on several issues of educational equity in that state. We are excited to welcome and learn from these dynamic new leaders!


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