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Department of Education announces call for innovation; opportunity for funding to reimagine remote learning

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Department of Education announces call for innovation; opportunity for funding to reimagine remote learning

Image by Chuck Underwood from Pixabay

On April 28, the Department of Education announced a new $300 million discretionary grant competition for state education agencies aimed at “creating adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency,” according to the Department’s press release. The grants will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), the smallest of the four education funding streams authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law in late March. In addition to this program, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund were also established by the CARES Act.

Congress set aside 1 percent of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for grants to States with the highest coronavirus burden. The Department is utilizing that  $307.5 million for these discretionary grants, which the Department will divide between two competitions: $180 million for the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant and $127.5 million for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.  

The Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant is aimed at opening new, innovative ways for students to access K-12 education with an emphasis on meeting students' needs during the coronavirus national emergency. The competition is open to state education agencies which can apply for funds in one of the three categories:

  • Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
  • Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
  • New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives

States can think creatively about addressing each of these three areas, and afterschool and summer learning can play important roles, including:

  • afterschool and summer learning programs can help inform families, schools and states about family microgrants and help identify those families most in need
  • the grant notice mentions specifies that the state education agency must provide parents and students with a list of service providers from which the parents and students may select, including more than one education service for remote learning that parents and students may choose. The list of possible service providers includes summer or afterschool education programs.
  • afterschool and summer learning programs can provide support to families in accessing the technology for learning opportunities, and can use that technology to stay connected with students during out of school time hours
  • afterschool programs with virtual offerings in student leadership, wellness, service learning, and other areas, may be able to work with the SEA to help students broadly access their materials as part of statewide virtual learning programs, andto provide support for students navigating a new statewide platform of coursess
  • afterschool and summer learning program providers like parks and recreation agencies, public libraries, community based organizations, higher education can partner with schools to provide hybrid remote education models that provide enrichment, engaging instruction, and experiential learning to help young people be successful in school and in life.

It’s always been unreasonable to think that schools can provide all the additional supports that young people and families need to support learning, and that may be true today more than ever before.  This new funding provides an important opportunity for SEAs, school districts, and afterschool leaders to work together to re-envision how community partners can and should play an important role in supporting young people’s academic and social and emotional learning.

The full Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) is available for SEAs to apply here.

The Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants are designed to expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs in order to get Americans back to work and help small businesses return to being our country's engines for economic growth. The full NIA for this competition will be posted here.

SEAs will have 60 days to apply. As with most of the Department of Education's discretionary grant competitions, applications will be evaluated by a panel of independent peer reviewers, and the highest-scoring applications will be funded. For additional information about how to apply, please visit https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/states-highest-coronavirus-burden/.

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