Brainstorm: Covid-19 Set Our Students Back, But Not Forever

It’s not a secret that the Covid-19 pandemic hurt the educational opportunities of Americas schoolchildren. Studies suggest that remote learning led to little or even no academic progress for students even in ideal conditions. In the first year of online school alone, evidence suggests that, on average, students quickly fell five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading levels. These stats are even worse for disadvantaged and minority communities. 

These statistics have far reaching consequences for the future, with the lost opportunity for school setting students back in future income, potentially by massive amounts. The World Bank estimates that, worldwide, learning loss from the pandemic could cost this generations’ students up to $17 trillion in future earnings. 

So, what can be done? Thankfully, lawmakers have recognized this dire need to catch students up and ensure they have all the tools they need to excel academically. But it’s up to the state and local authorities to take them up on their very generous offer.  

As a part of the American Rescue Plan Act, Congress has allocated more than $168 billion for k-12 and higher education purposes. As FutureED reports, the funding is broken down into these categories:  

  • $122 billion for K-12 dollars for schools reopening and combating learning loss. Districts must spend at least 20 percent of the money addressing learning loss. 
  • $2.75 billion for private K-12 schools 
  • $40 billion to support higher education institutions 
  • $7.2 billion to connect homes and libraries to the internet 
  • $3 billion to support students with disabilities 
  • $1 billion to support response and recovery 
  • $800 million to support homeless children 

The funds are flexible enough that recipients have a wide prerogative to fund programs they feel will best positively impact their students. Summer programs, tutoring, vocational school, after-school programs, and more are all on the table as options.  

In short, the federal government has approved quite a large sum of money to support the educational system, with a huge focus on addressing the consequences of learning loss and the overall debilitating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on students. Ensuring these students can benefit from these funds should be a top priority for all state and local governments.  

For more info on ARPA and how to access the funds, click here. 

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