Feds Approve Connecticut Plan For School Relief Money

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's plan for using $110 million in federal pandemic relief funds to reopen the state's K-12 schools for in-person learning, while addressing the effects of lost instructional time last school year and reducing education gaps over the long-term, has been approved by the federal government, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday released the remaining $369 million in federal pandemic relief funds for education to the state. With this latest batch, Connecticut will have received approximately $1.1 billion under the American Rescue Plan's Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, according to federal figures. The state previously received $737 million in March.

When combined with other federal COVID-relief funds for education, Connecticut has received roughly $1.7 billion since the start of the pandemic, according to the state Department of Education.

“This historic level of funding allows us, as one educational community, to be bold and innovative as we forge our path to a transformative and equitable recovery," said Connecticut Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker, in a written statement.

The Associated Press, relying on data published or provided by states and the federal government, for the first time tallied how much money was granted to nearly every district in the country.

A review of approximately $155 billion of the $190 billion in pandemic aid the federal government has provided schools shows Connecticut lags behind most states in per pupil funding. Nationally, the median per pupil amount is around $2,800. But for Connecticut, it’s $1,578.32, according to the preliminary analysis.

The state’s cities generally have received much larger amounts per pupil. Hartford Public Schools tops the list, with $8,543 per student. New London received $7,942 per pupil, compared to $7,779 for New Britain; $7,709 for Norwich; $7,523 for Waterbury; and $7,457 for Bridgeport. The bulk of allocations to states are made using the formulas that heavily favor districts with high concentrations of poverty.

In contrast, smaller communities received much less, often about several hundred dollars. Tolland public schools received $210 per pupil, while the amount is $237 for Wilton; $324 for Eastford and $367 for Simsbury.

Besides supporting the return of in-person learning, Connecticut's plan attempts to address lost instructional time through “high-dosage tutoring to support students with specific learning disabilities," a statewide K-8 model curricula and extended access to online/digital platforms to accelerate learning and provide students the chance to recover credits they have lost.

Federal funding will also be used to cover the cost of “expanded pathways to educator certification," with a focus on multilingual and special education educators, as well as educators of color and male educators, according to Connecticut education officials.

Additionally, there are plans to use funds to address students' mental health challenges as they transition back into the classroom, including providing on-site mental health specialists from community mental health agencies. Some federal money is expected to be used to bolster educators' involvement with families while also covering the cost of expanded afterschool programs and summer learning.

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