States Using Federal COVID Relief to Aid Students, Teachers

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In recognition of the monumental disruptions to school systems and the students they serve caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Congress appropriated approximately $200 billion in aid for schools throughout 2020 and 2021. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is proud to support states as they use this federal aid efficiently and effectively to accelerate learning, support teachers and aid student health and mental wellbeing, among a variety of efforts. Here are some examples of the many ways in which states are investing these federal COVID relief funds to benefit students:

Accelerate Learning

State education leaders recognize that school building closures disrupted learning for many students and are implementing programs to accelerate learning or close any gaps.

Some are statewide, through general curricula programs, like Virginia, which offered $107 million in three types of “Onward and Upward” grants to meet unfinished learning needs, support before- and after-school programs, or offer summer programs. Others are taking a more specific approach, like South Carolina, where leaders committed $20 million to expand arts education, with a focus on increasing access to quality arts education, particularly for underserved communities, and researching and developing innovative instructional practices.

Other states are using federal aid to direct supports to specific groups of students who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Connecticut, for instance, used $16 million to support local special education recovery efforts, including addressing delayed or interrupted student services, increasing the capacity to evaluate students for special education services, offering supplementary tutoring and reading instruction, and providing additional in-home support for high-needs students.

And leaders in Georgia committed $5 million to a partnership with the Graduation Alliance that will identify, engage and support up to 50,000 students in rural areas who have disengaged from school or are chronically absent due to COVID-related school disruptions, who are in danger of failing one or more classes, or whose families have requested additional support. 

Aid Student Health and Mental Wellbeing

State education leaders are committed to keeping all students safe and healthy. In addition to supporting the purchase of personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning and ventilation upgrades, states have focused on student mental wellbeing and connectedness, a large need after nearly two years of disrupted routines, isolation and other challenges.

Iowa used $20 million to create the Iowa Center for School Mental Health, which will offer crisis response services, face-to-face and online training and coaching for teachers, strategic planning support, needs assessment and program evaluation of social-emotional learning and positive behavioral interventions and supports implementation.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma used $35.7 million of its federal aid to hire more school mental health professionals, covering half the costs of salary and benefits for more than 300 personnel in 181 school districts for three years.

Support Teachers

Teachers across the country have shouldered new burdens and stepped up in creative ways to serve students throughout the pandemic. State education leaders are using federal funds to help attract new teachers, support their professional development in innovative ways and provide additional assistance in the classroom.

Missouri, for example, invested $50 million to support teacher recruitment and retention. Some of the funds will support “grow your own” programs, currently in about 20 percent of districts, to every district in the state. Additional grants will help teacher retention programs like providing stipends for mentors or supporting teachers pursuing National Board Certification.

Leaders in Arizona partnered with higher education in the state to provide new training for teachers in virtual learning, math and social-emotional learning, and to offer mentorship for new teachers, particularly those in districts disproportionately impacted by the pandemic or in rural or remote areas with long-term teacher recruitment and retention problems.

In New Hampshire, state education leaders partnered with Granite State College to provide professional development in remote instruction and the state’s learning management system. Teachers who complete the program will receive a stipend and credits toward a certification. Maine partnered with community colleges to create a fast-track micro-credentialing program that allows participants to work in schools as substitutes or paraprofessionals.

And Nevada used $8 million to fund teachers’ classroom projects, up to $800, through the DonorsChoose platform. The funding ultimately supported 10,993 projects.

These are just few of the many examples across the country of how states are spending federal COVID relief funds to improve learning environments for students and teachers. The leadership and staff at CCSSO are proud to support states in these efforts and others that aim to address the effects of the ongoing pandemic and offer equitable educational opportunities for every student.

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