This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: Closing the Digital Divide, CARES Act Education Relief, and the Tweet of the Week!
Closing the Digital Divide
One week ago, Governor Lamont announced that Connecticut had provided learning devices and internet connections for every student in need, a laudable feat. It makes Connecticut the first state in the country to meet this milestone. The Partnership for Connecticut initially spent $24M in March to buy 60,000 laptops for students, and the state subsequently invested $43.5M from the federal CARES Act to buy 82,000 laptops and 44,000 internet connections for kids in need.
However, digital tools are only impactful when used. A Washington Post article this week titled, “‘A lost generation’: Surge of research reveals students sliding backward, most vulnerable worst affected” reports that, “In Connecticut, attendance among Black, Latino and “high-needs” students — meaning those with disabilities, children from low-income families and English-language learners — is down by roughly 5 percent this year. The declines are worse in districts located in some of Connecticut’s poorest cities.”
The state's most recent monthly attendance report (October) also reveals that students learning remotely had lower rates of attendance across all subgroups.
CARES Act Relief Funds in CT
Before Thanksgiving, Education Secretary DeVos announced that states were leaving a significant amount of CARES Act education funding on the table. The US Department of Education has published a database of CARES Act dollars, which shows that of the $13.2B earmarked for K12, only 12% had been spent by September nationally. However, a recent Chalkbeat article argues that, in reality, the database is misleading because it can only capture bills that have already been paid and because there may be reporting delays from states.
For example, Connecticut was awarded $111M in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds under the federal CARES Act. In addition, the state has committed other revenue streams to education recovery, resulting in a reported $266M package to CT schools. Nevertheless, in spite of the state’s need to commit additional dollars beyond the ESSER investment, the federal database still only tracks Connecticut as having spent 4.3% of the awarded ESSER funds, as of September 30th. According to the CT Examiner, states have until December 30th to either spend or earmark their remaining COVID relief funds.