Keeping schools open will be the top priority when deciding how to spend $1.1 billion in federal dollars for K-12 education that Louisiana officials expect to receive, State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said Wednesday.
“Educating during a pandemic is costly,” he said.
Extra costs can include renting more space and adding bus routes to allow distance between students, hiring more substitute teachers, and buying more cleaning supplies than usual, he noted. State officials also have been able to use federal CARES Act dollars to pay for internet connectivity and devices students can use for remote learning.
The federal government has not yet issued the rules about how money from the newest federal aid bill can be used. Brumley said the change in administrations understandably has delayed the process.
But he said he has a general idea of how the money can be spent. And in conversations with stakeholder groups, keeping classrooms open and addressing learning loss during the pandemic emerged as clear priorities.
Internet connectivity remains a concern. A quarter of state public school students may not have internet access, and state officials aren’t sure if the rest have reliable high-speed access, Brumley said.
Other likely uses for the money include improving literacy, addressing mental and social health issues, and preparing for the summer and fall terms, he said.
On Wednesday, the state Department of Education released “Believe to Achieve,” a “roadmap to improve outcomes for all Louisiana children” that lays out the department’s six “critical goals,” which are:
- Students enter kindergarten ready. Currently only 40% of kindergarten students are on or above grade level on literacy assessments.
- Students will achieve “mastery” level on third-grade assessments and enter fourth grade prepared for grade-level content. On 2019 assessment tests, 43% of third-grade students reached the mastery level or better in math, while 46% achieved mastery of English language arts.
- Students will achieve “mastery level” on eighth-grade assessments and enter high school prepared for grade-level content. On 2019 assessments, 47% of eighth-grade students reached mastery in English language arts, while 28% reached that level in math.
- Students will graduate on time. The 2019 cohort graduate rate was 80%.
- Graduates will graduate with a college and/or career credential. Only 159 out of 42,650 2019 graduates left high school with an associate’s degree.
- Produce more graduates eligible for a TOPS state scholarship. About 63% of 2019 graduates met that standard.
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