The U.S. Department of Education has approved Connecticut’s plan for the funding the state is receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The funding was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year as part of the ongoing efforts to assist in recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state’s plan for the federal funds aims to maximize both short- and long-term investments with an emphasis on promoting renewal, reducing opportunity gaps, and advancing equity.
Top priorities within Connecticut’s plan include:
- Learning acceleration, academic renewal, and student enrichment
- Family and community connections
- Social, emotional, and mental health of students and school staff
- Strategic use of technology and staff development to address the digital divide
- Building safe and healthy schools
The news media has been highlighting the lack of healthy conditions in schools in recent days as temperatures have soared into the 90s and schools have been forced to dismiss early on the first days of the year. Many Connecticut classrooms are not equipped with air conditioning or proper ventilation systems, causing temperatures to rise to unsafe levels. Poor ventilation in public schools is also a concern because of airborne pathogens—such as coronavirus.
CEA President Kate Dias told Fox 61 News yesterday that federal funds should be invested in improvements to the health and safety of our schools, including the installment, maintenance, or repair of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and the remediation and prevention of mold. “That leaves your districts and your classrooms stronger, better, safer, at the end of that three-year period” when the federal funding runs out, Dias said.
Teachers have also stressed the need for collaboration and the inclusion of all education stakeholders in school, district, and statewide decisions about how federal funds should be spent.
In his letter to Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker approving Connecticut’s plan, U.S. Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary Ian Rosenblum wrote, “As you implement this plan, we expect you to continue meaningfully engaging with stakeholders and the public and revising your plan, as necessary, to best meet the needs of students, parents, and educators. Ongoing engagement with all stakeholders is vital to ensuring that implementation of your plan is transparent, effective, equitable, inclusive, and best meets the needs of your State.”