It’s time to permanently increase education funding–ESSER spending proves it

In the last two years, an unprecedented increase in funding has flooded into schools around the country courtesy of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) package. While ESSER’s primary intent was to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on schools and students, it may also be illuminating a much bigger truth.

What if the lesson we are supposed to learn from ESSER isn’t about the power of one-time relief or struggles to spend it, but instead about the necessity of an increased, recurring investment in our schools that educate those who have been historically underserved?

The first two rounds of federal ESSER funds are posing challenges for the 6,988 school leaders who must allocate the dollars, a recent report from the Association of School Business Officials finds. The reasons aren’t as simple as one might think. These challenges are directly connected to the chronic underfunding of our schools across the country — especially those in underserved communities — which is an issue with implications far beyond ESSER funding, according to a July 2022 report from the Economic Policy Institute. …Read More

Why E-rate is critical for school technology access

Every year, schools and libraries have access to billions of dollars of funding through the FCC’s E-rate program. Unfortunately, many don’t take advantage, oftentimes because of confusion over who is eligible and what services are available. In this post I’ll break down the importance of E-rate, how it works, and the types of technologies it makes available that are crucial to education.

The importance of E-rate

For students in the 21st century, it’s almost impossible to overemphasize the importance of the internet and digital learning technologies. There is a growing dependence on these resources across the U.S., and they are often seen as critical for connecting students and teachers and preparing students for lifelong learning and jobs.…Read More

It’s time to focus on learning experience design

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that understanding the whole student matters. Since March of 2020, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of person hours have been spent enabling remote learning access, rolling out strategic student supports—particularly around mental health—and providing emergency aid for students struggling with basic needs.

All the while, the committed educators focused on meeting this moment embraced a clear truth: Maslow trumps Bloom on learning journeys. Whether its early learning, K-12, higher education, or job training, we have been forcefully reminded by COVID to focus on the whole student experience if we want our learners to begin, continue, and succeed on their pathways to and through education.

Even pre-pandemic, a holistic student supports approach was becoming an essential feature of student success initiatives, particularly as the focus on student completion took hold over the last decade. However, much of this work has been anchored in strategic outreach and advising reform. With what we’ve learned and lived through over the last two years in rethinking instruction and student support with learner experiences at the center, we are now challenged to embrace this perspective in a more fulsome and integrative way in the learning process itself. Put simply: now is the time for learning experience designers.…Read More

How one district used federal funds to boost its digital library

As the old expression goes – you never know if you don’t try. This principle also applies when it comes to federal grants, through which billions of dollars in relief funding are available to help U.S. K-12 schools with recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many school districts have yet to take advantage of these resources.

Educators who spend time in classrooms interacting with students will be the first to admit that their needs are as wide-ranging as they are numerous. From making classrooms safer to providing high-quality instructional materials to ensuring schools leverage the most current digital tools, grant money can make all the difference.

And for school librarians in particular, these grants represent a unique opportunity to establish future-ready libraries with strong digital book collections. But when it comes to applying for the grants, finding out what kind of funding is available is only the first step.…Read More

Automation can help K-12 cybersecurity–here’s how

Across industries, ransomware and cyberattacks have proliferated in the past year, largely due to the rapid shift to remote work and school. The education sector has been hit particularly hard–the 2020 calendar year saw a record-setting 408 publicly disclosed cybersecurity incidents in the K-12 sector, according to The State of K-12 Cybersecurity: 2020 Year in Review.

The report, put out by the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, found that the attacks affected 377 school districts in 40 states and cost millions of dollars to resolve.

The unfortunate reality is that the problem isn’t going to go away–the threat landscape will continue to expand. And compounding this is the fact that education IT departments are too often underfunded. This is where automation can play a key role.…Read More

Why automation is key to education’s cybersecurity problem

Across industries, ransomware and cyberattacks have proliferated in the past year, largely due to the rapid shift to remote work and school. The education sector has been hit particularly hard–the 2020 calendar year saw a record-setting 408 publicly disclosed cybersecurity incidents in the K-12 sector, according to The State of K-12 Cybersecurity: 2020 Year in Review.

The report, put out by the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, found that the attacks affected 377 school districts in 40 states and cost millions of dollars to resolve.

The unfortunate reality is that the problem isn’t going to go away–the threat landscape will continue to expand. And compounding this is the fact that education IT departments are too often underfunded. This is where automation can play a key role.…Read More

Arizona Department of Education Announces Partnership with Discovery Education to Bring Flexible Digital Resources to All Students

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) today launched a new partnership with Discovery Education, a worldwide edtech leader whose state-of-the-art K-12 digital platform supports learning wherever it takes place. By strategically using federal relief and recovery dollars, teachers and students across the state will soon receive access to Discovery Education’s award-winning K-12 learning platform. As students, teachers, and families prepare to return to in-person learning, the Arizona Department of Education and Discovery Education are committed to meeting students where they are to accelerate learning.

“Digital resources like those provided to teachers and students through our new partnership with Discovery Education have the ability to take students beyond their classroom and introduce them to people, places, and ideas they might not otherwise encounter,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman. “However, in the past, access to transformative, high-quality digital content was not equitable. Our new partnership with Discovery Education brings these resources to classrooms across our state, ensuring every Arizonan student has the opportunity to access a new world of information and ideas from any device.”

Discovery Education’s K-12 platform, Experience, connects educators to a vast collection of compelling high-quality, standards-aligned content, ready-to-use digital lessons, and professional learning resources. Together these resources give educators a variety of tools to facilitate instruction in any learning environment and create lasting educational impact.…Read More

OverDrive Education Provides Free Resources to Schools Receiving COVID-19 Relief Funds

Toolkit facilitates district decision making to eliminate barriers to reading and increase equity

CLEVELAND – May 14, 2021 – The federal government has approved billions of dollars of relief funds for schools, but some educators are unclear where the funds originate and how they should be used. Today, OverDrive Education announced a new effort to guide school districts through the process of understanding and using Education Stabilization Funds (ESF). Interested schools can access the full collection of resources in the K-12 Funding Champion Toolkit.

Since March 2020, the U.S. Department of Education has allocated nearly $193 billion in K-12 COVID-19 relief funding to states. The government funds, also known by legislative acronyms CARES, CRRSA, ARP and ESSER, can be used in a variety of ways ranging from improving ventilation, expanding after-school programs and purchasing digital resources like ebooks and audiobooks.…Read More

CASEL Releases Recommendations for SEL Investments with American Rescue Plan (ARP) Dollars

CHICAGO, IL – The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 represents a $123 billion infusion in K-12 education, including support for social and emotional learning (SEL). To assist leaders and policymakers in this opportunity, CASEL has released a new policy brief, The Three Highest Priority Investments to Make in SEL with American Rescue Plan Dollars. Originally developed for the Recovery to Reinvention series led by PIE Network and Bellwether Education Partners, the brief includes specific guidance for district leaders, local policymakers, and state policymakers.

Decades of research have demonstrated the effectiveness of SEL for supporting students’ academics, behaviors, mental health, and long-term success. The ARP’s historic levels of K-12 dollars offer a critical opportunity to invest a long-term foundation for evidence-based, systemic implementation of SEL that fully supports students and schools through the pandemic and beyond. Investments in SEL align to the ARP expenditure guidelines, and policymakers can help optimize resources by ensuring investments are evidence-based, sustainable, and responsive to the needs of all students, including those in historically marginalized communities. 

There are three key areas where investments of ARP dollars could most effectively bolster systemic implementation of SEL: …Read More

7 ways to focus stimulus spending on students with disabilities

Schools and districts are poised to receive an influx of federal dollars that should support students with disabilities and make equity a priority, ensuring that outdated and ineffective special education systems are updated and held to high-quality standards, according to a new report from the Center for Learner Equity.

Students with disabilities and those with special needs are some of the worst-hit during the pandemic, with virtual learning preventing students from accessing vital in-school therapies and programs.

In March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which invests $130 billion into education–including $3 billion for IDEA–and gives schools and districts access to funds to directly meet student needs, including students with disabilities and those impacted by socio-economic constraints.…Read More