BATON ROUGE, La. – As a result of a global pandemic and a 2020-2021 school year unlike ever before, $4 billion dollars are being infused into the state for PreK - 12 academic recovery efforts. These funds are part of three stimulus recovery packages approved by Congress. Over 90% of these funds flow directly to school systems. Of the remaining state set-aside portion, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cade Brumley, announced the state will invest an additional $300 million to support students, educators, families and communities. “This once-in-a-lifetime resource gives us a chance to make short and long term impact for students across our state,” Brumley says. “We must overcome the very real pandemic-related deficits, but also recognize this catalyst opportunity to be better for our future.”
The Louisiana Department of Education turned to community stakeholders to shape our recovery efforts. Using this feedback, the state developed a multi-year strategic plan to close learning gaps created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stakeholders identified the top areas where school systems needed the most support:
Student engagement and attendance
Mental health and well-being
Support for learners’ diverse needs
Academic recovery and acceleration
With the portion of funds already allocated, school systems have begun implementing activities and interventions, such as summer learning and tutoring, set to continue into the 2021-2022 school year. In fact, almost 200,000 Louisiana students have participated in summer programming.
To assist school systems with supporting our students and educators, the Department is dedicating additional resources to implement evidence-based initiatives that support:
after school programming,
learning recovery and acceleration,
new teacher supports,
mental health and well-being, and
Further, the Department will facilitate a bold competitive grant process, awarding the most innovative ideas to improve outcomes for the Louisiana students.
Believe to Achieve
During the 2020-2021 school year, Louisiana put in place a set of mitigation efforts to keep students and employees safe. Louisiana was recognized by the American Enterprise Institute for having the eighth most aggressive reopening plan in America as well as being the state with the seventh greatest percentage of students participating in daily face to face instruction. Louisiana concluded last school year with over 70% of students in daily face to face instruction. Next year, the Department is working to support further in-person schooling.
In January, the Department of Education released its Believe to Achieve: Educational Priorities plan. The plan serves as the Department’s roadmap to improving outcomes for all Louisiana children. “I believe it is our responsibility - as educators, leaders, community and family members - to promote pandemic recovery and meet long-standing educational challenges,” says Brumley. “This process must begin from an early age in order to prepare students for successful civic life beyond high school.”
Barriers to high-quality learning experiences for students were made more prevalent due to the pandemic. To combat instructional loss, particularly for our most vulnerable students, LDOE seeks to develop a highly effective workforce while cultivating high-impact systems and partnerships. The department is confident that the influx of financial resources will provide significant opportunities for school systems to invest in building a strong educator workforce, accelerate learning, and ultimately achieve the best outcomes for students.
Congress provided financial support for school systems through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. School systems are able to access these funds through a grant application called Achieve! This multi-year planning and budgeting process allows school systems to request additional funds to support the implementation of the new initiatives. ESSER funding can be leveraged for a wide range of activities “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” These funds can be used through September 2024, enabling school systems to continue critical work that will improve student outcomes for years to come.
Program Outcomes + Sustainability
Brumley says Achieve! is being implemented at a time when public trust and transparency is necessary within government at all levels.
“We’re confident that this multi-year plan will provide long-lasting, positive outcomes for Louisiana students,” he states. “Our department was already committed to enriching student lives, but this influx of funds will provide an opportunity to create a more robust learning experience for every learner, especially following a year of unprecedented academic and emotional challenges.” LDOE is pledging to keep stakeholders up to date and informed throughout the process of the Achieve! program implementations, stating its commitments include:
Investments that have a collective impact - from the state to our classrooms.
Planning that is strategic and priorities-based.
Transparency of funds.
In August, LDOE plans to release a fiscal dashboard that will report how school systems are budgeting and spending their relief monies. In an effort to provide and maintain transparency around the funds, the dashboard will include state and local data on a monthly and quarterly basis. Additionally, LDOE will track state set-aside funds in the same manner, and provide quarterly updates on these expenses. This reporting will begin late this summer.