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Gov. Pritzker Releases Recommendations for $7 Billion in Federal Funding to Support K-12 Students Returning to Classrooms

Written by on Apr 6, 2021

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Pritzker today announced Illinois K-12 school districts are receiving $7 billion in federal funding to support students as they return to the classroom after distance and hybrid learning due to COVID-19.

With this unprecedented level of funding, Governor Pritzker asked education experts to share best practices and recommendations to best support students, including academic and behavioral counseling; out-of-classroom experiences like high-value tutoring, after school programs and summer camps; and creating individualized student profiles to craft the best plans for all students.

Recommendations are available online through the P-20 Council’s Learning Renewal Resource Guide, which is being released to all school districts today. The 180-page guide is filled with ideas from experts and stakeholders from across the state to help school districts renew learning and provide ongoing feedback.

The guide is a living document, designed with input from more than 300 stakeholders, to support school districts as they develop their own local ideas and homegrown initiatives for the unprecedented federal funding they will be receiving. The administration is committed to an ongoing dialogue with school administrators and local leaders across the state and encourages districts to invite teachers, students, community organizations, and especially parents to be a part of this process.

“If you’re a parent, I know you’ve spent most of this pandemic worried about how your kids are learning – with all the screens and Zooms, sometimes you’re worried about whether they’re learning at all,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “My administration is taking a little bit of that worry off your plates. I’m committed to making sure that Illinois leads the nation in assisting schools to make this new $7 billion count over the next several years to overcome the pandemic’s effects on our students, parents and educators.”

The latest round of unprecedented federal funding for schools, through the American Rescue Plan, allocates more than $5 billion for pre-K through 12th grade education in Illinois, 90 percent of which will flow directly to school districts. Illinois’ education system has been awarded more than $7.8 billion in federal pandemic relief funding in total over three rounds of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund program, with $7 billion flowing directly to school districts over the next three years.

School districts can also leverage regular federal grants to support learning renewal for students in the greatest need, such as low-income students, English Learners, and students with disabilities. Additionally, higher education institutions in Illinois will receive $1.3 billion from the third round of federal support, for a total of $2.5 billion across the three rounds of funding primarily from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

“Black people have suffered from systemic racism for far too long, so I am proud that I led the effort to change Illinois’ educational system for our Black students,” Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) said. “The law we passed required the state’s P-20 Council to make recommendations on how to address the impact of COVID-19, resulting in the Learning Renewal Guide. It will help our state’s schools and universities make the best use of the more than $7 billion they’re receiving in federal aid. This funding is especially important for schools in disproportionately affected Black communities.”

“The beauty of the Education and Workforce Equity Act is that it addresses our education system as a whole, starting with barriers to achievement both inside and outside of the classroom that have been exacerbated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said House Majority Conference Chair Carol Ammons (D-Champaign). “I’m pleased that our holistic approach is reflected in the Learning Renewal Guide, which will help to ensure that federal aid is utilized in an equitable way. It’s going to take bold, comprehensive action to fully overcome learning loss and close racial equity gaps, and I am thankful to Governor Pritzker and his administration for their dedication to that mission.”

The P-20 Council developed the Learning Renewal Guide to provide school districts with reliable, proven ideas to develop solutions that work best for their communities. The guide was developed through extensive stakeholder engagement, in collaboration with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development (GOECD) and support from A Better Chicago and Advance Illinois.
The Learning Renewal Resource Guide details 12 strategies – each supported by research, stakeholder feedback, and case studies – that districts and higher education institutions should consider to equitably address the pandemic’s short- and long-term impacts. Each of the 12 strategies contain underlying initiatives, implementation guidance, and estimated costs and impacts. Altogether, the guide envisions a road to renewal that starts with maximizing in-person learning opportunities for students through a reimagined school calendar and includes investments to identify and meet each student’s individual needs from preschool through college and career.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity through this federal funding to transform the quality of learning opportunities for all our students,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “This guide provides a roadmap for how our education system can emerge from the pandemic stronger, with even greater capacity to close gaps and achieve equity. That journey begins with getting students back into the classroom as soon and as much as possible.”

“The effects of COVID-19 have significantly impacted student opportunities and well-being, and we know parents and educators across the state are focused on supporting students going forward,” said Advance Illinois President Robin Steans. “With the release of this guide, local leaders – who have given so much over the past year – now have a comprehensive, user-friendly, and field-vetted resource that will enable them to make the best possible use of federal relief and local dollars as they craft learning renewal plans to meet this moment.”

“We hope that the Learning Renewal Resource Guide will support local leaders across the state as they leverage critical federal resources to address the immediate needs of our young people, including holistic supports inside and outside the classroom,” said CEO of A Better Chicago Beth Swanson. “Ideally, this guide will also inspire the philanthropic sector to invest in the strategies outlined and partner in this critical work to create an equitable education system where all of Illinois’ young people can thrive.”

The P-20 Council convened working teams, representing over 300 different stakeholders, to develop the guide. The group also derived content for the guide from administrator, educator, student, and caregiver focus groups, as well as evidence-based research, survey responses, and feedback from agencies, teachers’ unions, and other education organizations. The document will continue to evolve and includes a link to a feedback survey for anyone interested in providing input as well as additional resources and information on how to get involved in future focus groups.

In addition to the guide, Illinois state education agencies will focus on four major goals to support schools:

• High-impact tutoring, with a focus on aligning tutoring with classroom instruction throughout the school year and during the summer.
• Social and emotional learning community partnerships, including with the Center for Childhood Resilience (CCR), housed at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
• Interim assessment, intended solely for diagnostic purposes, to provide reliable measures for understanding the impact on student learning so educators can target their responses to students’ needs.
• Bridge/transition support, to encourage enrollment in both early childhood programs and higher education. 

To support the administration’s work to expand quality early childhood education, the governor is pleased to receive the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding’s report of findings and recommendations. The administration looks forward to working closely with commission members and stakeholders across the state on a number of key initiatives in the coming years, including building out regional support systems for early childhood providers.

“The early years are a particularly vulnerable period for children,” said Dr. Jamilah R. Jor’dan, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development. “Their academic and social-emotional skills are important components of their school readiness. The pandemic has highlighted the need for increased social and emotional supports that are accessible to the adults who care for Illinois’ youngest children and families. The Learning Renewal Resource Guide provides an equitable framework for decision making and initiatives that will inform investments to strengthen Illinois’ education system and allow us to move towards renewal.”

“Now, more than ever, we have to do everything in our power to ensure our students have the support they need to stay the course to their college dreams,” said IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro. “With its core focus on equity, this guide will help the higher education system achieve its strategic goals to close equity gaps and ensure students have the credentials for the jobs of the future. Thank you to the hundreds of people who contributed knowledge, expertise, and insight.” 

“Coupled with unprecedented federal support, community colleges can draw upon this guide to supplement their own efforts as they help students return to campus and renew their learning goals,” said ICCB Executive Director Dr. Brian Durham. “It will inform colleges on best practices that, when coupled with their own herculean efforts, will ensure students excel in their chosen college coursework or career.”

“We recognize that the overwhelming financial and personal challenges of the last year have left many students — particularly those from communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic — rethinking their plans for education after high school and in some instances choosing to forgo postsecondary education,” said ISAC Executive Director Eric Zarnikow. “We hope schools will leverage the strategies and resources outlined in this guide, including the assistance offered by our ISACorps statewide near peer mentors, to improve awareness of opportunities and increase access to a postsecondary path that will be meaningful for each student.”

The complete guide is available online at the P-20 council’s website.

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