Updated: Feb 22
This past weekend I was having a conversation with a special education teacher from Richmond, Virginia. She was explaining to me all of the issues she was having as a result of COVID achievement gaps.
“Michelle, I started working as the school's interventionist with a group of Kindergarteners to help them on their reading journey. By the end of the year, many of them were just starting to identify their letters and letter sounds. During First grade they started the process of early literacy and then we went into COVID isolation. So now these students are in 2nd grade, and this year they have all been virtual all year. We closed down school this week and now it's not just the few I was working with, we now have classrooms of students that are not reading, or even reading at a very very basic level.”
I had to stop and really think about that for a moment. I have been engaged in many meetings where “years of educational delay” has been commented on, but I don't think my brain actually connected to the implications until this conversation. We have so many states with 3rd grade reading guarantee laws on the books….and now we have classrooms of 2nd graders starting 3rd grade with little reading ability.
The catch up that needs to take place, will take a lot of effort and a lot of funding. In light of the conversation I had about the literacy gaps, I was elated to see that the Department of Education has called for significant increases in federal support for education overall.
President Biden’s 2022 proposed discretionary budget requests $103 billion for education. This would increase current funding thresholds from 2021 by almost $30 billion. A lot of eyes were raised when the proposal was released, but the administration recognized that funding for education has been in a deficit for a decade. The latest ed.gov memo states, “the underinvestment in K-12 education matters because of the dramatic and longstanding inequities in State and local education funding systems, which despite more than half a century of litigation and reform, too often continue to provide significantly less funding for high-poverty districts and schools, which are more likely to serve students of color, resulting in a disproportionate impact on these students. Reversing these funding inequities, as well as immediately addressing the negative impact of those inequities in service of students, are critical goals.” 1
Local Education Agencies will have access to $20 billion in Title I Equity Grants that will help address years of funding inequity helping to make sure that all students receive a high quality education. Civil rights was also not ignored with a 10% increase to protect students by advancing equity from PreK through higher education.
There are major dollars earmarked for improving students' physical and mental health as well as providing community wrap-around services to students and families in underserved schools. For the first time in eight (8) years, a proposed 20% increase in special education dollars has been proposed with dollars earmarked for early intervention services for infants and toddlers.
Other proposed items of note:
$412 Million to address teaching shortages, improve training and supports for teachers, and boost teacher diversity
$340 Million for special education preparation
$60 Million o the Hawkins Centers of Excellence (increase quality and # if minority educators)
$1.6 Billion to support new certifications in high need areas
$200 Million to support opportunities for effective teachers to lead while having internal impact on their schools
$108 Million increase in CTE programs nationwide
$25 Million increase to expand college bridge programs
$100 Million over 10 years to help connect adults to employment
Pell Grant Increases for high education
2 Years FREE community college for first time students
$10 Billion for school infrastructure
$50 Billion over five (5) years for grants to update existing schools
$12 Billion over five (5) years to invest in community college facilities
$2.1 Billion for federal student aid
No matter which political party you may align with, education needs this funding. I hope as a nation we can come together to make these historic investments to bridge the achievement gaps and lay the groundwork for sustainable equitable practices across every school in America!
Please…Get involved and make a difference!