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Written by Dr. Kecia Ray
on August 13, 2020

As Congress works to reach a deal on the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act for more funding (a proposed $105B for education), the United States Department of Education (USDE) announced 11 awardees of the Rethinking K-12 Education Models Grant (ESF-REM). These funds are part of the Education Stabilization Fund that was allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The ESF-REM grants were competitive, and states were allowed to apply for three different uses of the $300M fund.

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The three absolute priorities of the grant include:

  • Microgrants, so that states can ensure families have access to the technology and services to advance learning remotely (absolute priority one) including:
    • Tuition and fees for a public or private course or program, especially online
    • Concurrent and dual enrollment at a postsecondary institution, particularly for career and technical education experiences
    • Special education and related services including therapies
    • Contracted educational services provided by a public or nonpublic school
    • Tutoring
    • Summer or after-school education programs
    • Testing preparation and examination fees, including Advanced Placement examinations, industry certification exams, state licensure exams, and any examinations related to college or university admission
    • Academic, college, and career counseling services
    • Application fees for public and nonpublic school students
    • Textbooks, curricula, or other instructional materials
    • Other education-related services and materials that are reasonable and necessary, which may include (but cannot be the only use of the microgrant) computer hardware, software, or other technological devices, including adaptive devices; internet access or hotspots; or textbooks, curricula, or other instructional materials
  • Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students can access a full range of subjects—even those not taught in their assigned setting (absolute priority two). This means that a state choosing this option must:
    • Develop or expand a statewide virtual learning or course access program, provided that it also proposes to implement either a statewide course access program or virtual school
    • Widely disseminate information on the availability of course access programs or virtual school programs
    • Include a parent involvement and feedback process that, for example, describes a way for parents to request courses or programming that are not currently offered and to provide input on services provided through the project
  • New field-initiated models for providing remote education to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives (absolute priority three). These awardees will:
    • Create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale field-initiated educational models for remote learning
    • Address specific needs related to accessing high-quality remote learning opportunities

States are using these funds in a variety of ways and there are huge opportunities to ensure that social and emotional learning as well as mental health support are at the forefront of the conversation. These states can lead the way in ensuring access for students even in remote settings using innovative learning models. The opportunity to ensure the well-being of students in a virtual setting cannot be missed.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can effectively use these new educational funding streams, register for our Back to School 2020: Maximizing District Budgets to Support Student Safety and Distance Learning webinar on Thursday, August 20 at 3:00 PM ET.

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