WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.),and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday introduced the Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act to create a $100 billion application-based grant program over the next ten years to help accelerate academic progress and address students’ social, emotional, mental, behavioral and physical health needs related to COVID-19.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, elementary and secondary public schools lacked sufficient funding and resources to provide all students with a high-quality public education. This challenge has been exacerbated by the pandemic and is likely to significantly worsen existing achievement gaps for students in low-income communities and communities of color. Students are also experiencing significant academic and mental health needs. Researchers estimate that school closures have resulted in several months of lost instruction in math and reading, and one study estimated that between 10 and 25 percent of high-risk students, including homeless students and students with disabilities, have been completely disconnected from school since the pandemic began. The consequences of the pandemic for children’s academic and social development are likely to be long-term: children in first grade this year may need additional support throughout their academic careers.
The Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act of 2021 builds on short-term COVID relief funding for schools to create a $100 billion application-based grant program administered by the Department of Education over the next ten years to accelerate academic progress and address social, emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical health needs related to COVID-19. This long-term program complements crucial short-term relief funds for schools and will encourage high-quality, evidence-based programs to support students throughout their academic careers.
States, school districts, nonprofits in partnership with school districts, and the Bureau of Indian Education can apply for grants for one of two purposes:
- Implement Evidence-based Strategies: 75% of funds are reserved for grantees to adopt programs that meet a high bar of evidence, such as supporting social-emotional learning, implementing culturally and linguistically responsive practices, extending instructional time, and implementing high-quality individual or small-group tutoring.
- Support Field- and Educator-Initiated Innovations: 25% of funds are reserved for grantees to develop or replicate new ideas and strategies designed by educators in the field to accelerate academic progress and address social, emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical health needs associated with COVID-19. Grantees must include an independent evaluation for efficacy.
This legislation reserves funds for the Bureau of Indian Education, rural areas, and applicants serving low-income students. The Department must also give priority to applicants serving disproportionately higher percentages of high-need students, including low-income students, students of color and Native American students, homeless students, migrant students, students in foster care, English learners, students with disabilities, and students most affected by COVID-19.
“Our children have suffered significant learning loss on top of the social and emotional toll of living through a pandemic, and these effects won’t disappear overnight,” said Murphy. “The Educational Equity Challenge Grant program helps us invest in long-term support for students by providing funds to schools and local partners, especially in communities that have been disproportionately affected, to ensure we address the lingering impacts of COVID-19. The consequences of the pandemic demand bold action, and we must prioritize getting students and schools the help they urgently need.”
“The new grant created by this bill will support students hit hardest by the pandemic,” said Blumenthal. “The pandemic has severely worsened widespread inequities and disparities in public schools, especially in low-income communities. There’s a desperate need for grants to homeless students, students with disabilities, and others who are vulnerable. This bill builds on the immediate COVID relief funding for schools and creates a long-term solution to help students thrive.”
“Even before this public health crisis, many students faced inequity in our public school system – and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this problem, especially for students in low-income communities and communities of color who have been hit hard by this pandemic. I’m glad to introduce the Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act, which would help support our students now and throughout their academic careers,” said Warren.
“Without further investment from Congress, an entire generation of students in communities of color and low-income communities are at risk of being left behind. Massachusetts educators and schools are ready to close learning gaps caused by inequity in our system and the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress just needs to give them the resources and support to get it done. The Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act will provide the investment in learning and well-being that students need. We cannot turn our back on this generation of students,” said Markey.
“Before this pandemic even began, students in Oregon and around the country were rightly demanding more support for their emotional, mental and physical health. This crisis has only made these needs even more acute, especially for marginalized communities that have been hurting the most. To do their best in school, students deserve more than just academic support,” said Wyden. “The Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act would provide school districts and nonprofits in Oregon and across the nation with the opportunity to access additional resources to more fully address their students’ needs and ensure their success.”
This press release was made possible by: