Jun 17, 2020

School Systems and Early Childhood Education Communities to Spend Money on Critical Priorities Outlined by Louisiana Department of Education

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) this week approved nearly $31 million in federal relief funding for school systems and early childhood education communities to ensure a strong start for every child, birth through grade 12, as the state rebounds from facility closures as a result of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and adjusts to new operational expectations.

Of the $31 million, made available by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $25 million is going to school systems and nearly $6 million is going to early childhood communities. These entities will use this money to implement plans aligned to the critical priorities identified by the Louisiana Department of Education. 

"Our schools will benefit greatly from this additional funding," said State Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley. "I appreciate BESE's action to quickly allocate these funds."

Strong Start 2020: Pre-K through Grade 12
This spring, the Department received nearly $287 million in federal relief funding and announced it would give $260 million of that money to all school systems and reserve the remaining money for additional grant opportunities for school systems to support critical priorities.

The Department distributed the $260 million in federal relief funding to all school systems to address unfinished learning from the 2019-2020 school year, set the foundation for continuous learning in 2020-2021 and prepare for potential modified operations in the future. The Department also provided a "Strong Start 2020 Planning Guide" to school systems on how to prioritize spending to meet those goals for students in pre-K through grade 12.

In its guidance, the Department articulated a strong start to the next school year must ensure:

  • Every student's academic needs are identified at the beginning of the year using a high-quality, standards-aligned diagnostic tool.
  • There is a plan for every student, including extra time and support for students with the greatest unfinished learning from the prior year. 
  • There are clear next steps for every high school student and recent graduate, who will enter a new economy.

Additionally, the Department advised all school systems to have strong yet agile continuous education plans that provide standards-aligned instruction using high-quality curriculum during school facilities closures or modified operations, including provisions for:

  • 1:1 device and internet access, including assistive technology for students with disabilities;
  • A strategic communications plan to connect with every student on a daily basis, provide weekly feedback on students' work, and communicate a family's role in supporting their child's continuous learning;
  • Versatile delivery methods for instruction, related services, and professional development;
  • Adaptive staffing models that optimize teaching talent and student support; and
  • Flexible and opportunistic calendars and school schedules that maximize learning opportunities in a dynamic public health context.

School systems that agreed to these assurances were eligible for a share of the $25 million in targeted grant funding approved this week, and 178 school systems did so. The amount of each school system's share depends on its priorities and needs.

Strong Start 2020: Early Childhood Education
Mirroring the approach for pre-K through grade 12, the Department also last month outlined guidance, funding opportunities and resources in a "Strong Start 2020 Planning Guide" for early childhood communities.

Early childhood communities comprise early childhood lead agencies, Child Care Resource & Referral agencies, school systems, Head Start grantees, and child care providers. The planning guide emphasizes how these entities should work together to ensure:

  • All child care centers have the tools and resources they need to reopen safely and in accordance with Office of Public Health guidelines. 
  • Communities sustain and/or increase access to opportunities for early childhood care and education in the near and long-term. 
  • Teachers are prepared to lead classrooms and provide high-quality interactions for children every day.
  • Families are supported to re-enroll children in early childhood programs, or to provide quality care and education in their homes if programs are unable to reopen or remain open.

Early childhood communities were encouraged to submit plans aligned to these priorities in order to receive the federal COVID-19 Community Child Care Recovery Grants approved this week. The grant amounts depend on the community's size and needs.

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