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:
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