Pandemic relief has helped millions of people across the nation feel a sense of financial stability after lockdowns. As the federal government continues to provide pandemic aid to schools up and down the country, the hope is for teachers and other decision-makers to turn this money into solutions that will provide for future generations of students. But is this the route they’re taking? How much money are they spending, and who has the final stamp of approval?
“This is our moment to ensure that we reopen, reinvest and reimagine our schools differently and better than ever before,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said at a virtual education summit in June. “These next months and years will determine the trajectory of success for millions of students in our care.”
How much funding is available?
According to the Federal Communications Commission, it received over $5 billion in requests for the Emergency Connectivity Fund in the first round of applicants from schools and districts. This fund was a broader version of the American Rescue Plan, the initial recovery funding to assist those financially impacted by the pandemic. The number of applicants showing interest in the ECF indicates how much teachers and administrators need assistance for the next school year and beyond.
“The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them—and this robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, the acting chairwoman of the FCC, in a statement.
There will be a second application window between Sept. 28 and Oct. 13 to continue to support schools and libraries during this school year.
What are the plans for these funds?
The funding is to support schools and libraries as they continue to navigate the pandemic. Making purchases toward tools and resources for students can give them access to the devices they need to complete their coursework. Still, they might not have them at home. Laptops, tablets, WiFi hotspots, modems, routers, and connections for students and school staff to use off-campus can be derived from this funding.
Teachers, faculty, and staff are encouraged to use these funds to support learning outside the school, even if remote learning is at a standstill. Providing students with tools that can help them with homework or other questions about their courses can provide a seamless transition into what the future may look like for student-teacher communication.
Who are the key stakeholders and decision-makers?
School districts and state departments receive the initial funding. Still, many teachers are helping with the decision-making process regarding funding for school supplies and tools needed to complete the school year. With that said, educators understand how good these funds can be and would benefit from the funding regularly, not just during a pandemic. After all, teachers spent about $386 out of pocket to purchase learning materials and supplies during the 2020-2021 school year, so government funding could prevent this from occurring.
“School districts and state departments of education are working hard now to persuade Congress to make the emergency connectivity fund permanent,” Reg Leichty, a founder, and partner at Foresight Law + Policy, told EdWeek. “Making the fund permanent is essential to delivering education 2021 and beyond.”