New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
U.S. education department OKs Connecticut school funding plan
The U.S. Department of Education announced on Friday the approval of Connecticut’s plan for the latest round of $1.1 billion federal dollars earmarked for public schools.
The department also released the last of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary
School Emergency Relief funds to the state, totaling $369.4 million. A third of the funding was on hold until state plans were approved.
“I am excited to announce approval of Connecticut’s plan,” said Miguel Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education and former commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education, in a statement.
“The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to quickly and safely reopen schools for fulltime, in-person learning; meet students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs; and address disparities in access to educational opportunity that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
Connecticut included five broad categories of priority in its plan: learning and enrichment, family and community connections, student and teacher social-emotional and mental health, education technology, and building safe and healthy schools.
The state education department released its plan for the $110 million state set-aside in June, which went toward summer programs, a full return to in-person learning, academic help for students, workforce development and more.
Other highlights include a state model K-8 curricula, tutoring for students with disabilities, expanded teacher certification pathways, and partnerships with community-based mental health agencies.
Local districts’ plans were due to the state early last week.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been striving to make the investments necessary to help our school communities meet their areas of greatest need, especially for those students disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” said Charlene Russell-Tucker, the state commissioner of education.
Russell-Tucker, who had served as acting commissioner since March, was nominated for the permanent role last week.
“This historic level of funding allows us, as one educational community, to be bold and innovative as we forge our path to a transformative and equitable recovery,” she said.
Connecticut politicians were quick to celebrate the federal education department’s approval of the state’s plan.
Gov. Ned Lamont said he applauded the “many teachers and educational staff who have been working throughout this pandemic to engage our students and keep them actively involved throughout this difficult time.
“Our administration will continue working with school districts to ensure that we can maintain these efforts and every student has access to the educational opportunities they deserve,” he said.
“These funds were specifically directed by Congress to help schools reopen safely and enable in-person learning to thrive,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, DConn. “Putting students back in Connecticut classrooms is critical to overcoming the setbacks and learning gaps resulting from the pandemic. Our approving this American Rescue Plan funds is a game changing step, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Biden Administration to ensure our schools remain open and safe for students, teachers, and staff.”
“As Connecticut kids head back to school, it is critical that educators have the federal funding necessary to help them thrive,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “I am grateful Connecticut continues to be a leader in addressing the needs of all our students by putting together a plan that meets this moment.”