In this Education edition of Public Policy for the People, we will be focusing on the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE)’s plans to spend the dollars provided to the state’s educational system through the American Rescue Plan Act.
These funds are the third installment of federal dollars intended to assist states during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first two installments came through the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. These funds came during the height of the pandemic with the primary aim to prepare schools to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through prevention methods, as well as focus on transitioning to online learning. In addition, teachers and many school staff members were also allotted a one-time bonus.
The most recent installment of federal funds will be coming to Georgia after the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in March of this year, and it is the largest relief installment yet at almost $4.3 billion dollars. Georgia’s statewide office, as well as Local Education Agencies, have been putting plans together regarding how they propose to spend the funds. This process included a public comment period in May where the public were able to weigh in with their recommendations and ideas for how the funds should be spent. Although the final spending plans are not due until July 9, there are some highlights that we can share.
Georgia’s State Plan will focus on three priorities: accelerate learning, personalize supports, and promote opportunity. The list of activities the state plans to invest in is quite long, which is no surprise considering the massive funding stream coming to the state.
A few highlights include:
- increase school-based health clinics,
- invest in the rural sparsity programs, social-emotional learning (SEL) and mental health formula grants to Local Education Agencies,
- support for the Whole Child Model (including a school nurse, social worker and wraparound specialist), and
- a large investment into teacher retention for IDEA programs, given the difficulty Georgia’s educational system experiences with recruitment and retention of special education teachers.
A key area of emphasis, included as a requirement to accept the funds, is supporting learning loss that has taken place during the pandemic. Georgia intends to invest approximately $85 million of the funds for summer and afterschool learning.
The GaDOE is partnering with the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network to administer grant opportunities for organizations through the Building Opportunities in Out-of-School Time (BOOST) grants.
With all of these new and enhanced educational opportunities, this is a very exciting time for those invested in our education system. As advocates, we should continue to work closely with our Local Education Agency, as well as the GaDOE, to ensure the needs of students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) are considered when developing and improving upon the highlighted activities. In addition, when the BOOST grants become available, we would strongly encourage organizations with an emphasis in supporting students with I/DD to apply. In addition, you can track the funding levels and spending plans by state HERE.