Op-EdOpinion

PRIMAS: Education and Civil Rights Groups Want Action to Support the Nation’s Most Vulnerable Students

In efforts to support states, districts and individual schools as they face unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, congressional leaders included $13.5 billion in funding for K-12 education within the recently signed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

With equity in mind, 10 civil rights and education advocacy organizations joined together in their concern that the funding for online learning, school meals and other critical supports may not get to students who most need additional resources as more states decide to keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic year.

The organizations, led by the Collaborative for Student Success and including the National Urban League and UnidosUS among others, recently penned a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that urged the Education Department to inform states and districts that they will need to collect — and report publicly after a year — more information about how they used the CARES Act funds.

Specifically, to increase transparency, states and districts should report details regarding how funds are used to meet the unique needs of underserved students, how they prioritized equitable learning opportunities like distance learning and how they addressed learning loss and achievement gaps. Making the reporting metrics available to the public will help highlight successful efforts that are promoting equity and innovation that others can replicate. It will also better allow outside organizations like civil rights groups to more effectively assist states, school districts and schools in serving students.

This focus is particularly important because the education funding is intended to aid America’s most vulnerable students. News reports indicate that Black Americans are being affected by the coronavirus at an alarming and disproportionate rates, and students of color are overrepresented in the numbers of students who rely on schools for meals and who may not have adequate access to an internet connection and technology to make remote or online learning a possibility. To address these specific concerns, families impacted at all levels by the pandemic must have access to critical education-related resources during this time.

What these groups are asking of Secretary DeVos isn’t arduous. These groups have put forth commonsense requests to help ensure the students who most need the supports provided in the law receive them. DeVos would be wise to follow them.

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