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March 12, 2021

What the American Rescue Plan means for K-12 students and educational equity

Reading Partners is encouraged that educational equity and national service are advanced in a variety of ways in the American Rescue Plan

As the COVID-19 pandemic arrives at a turning point that we all hope will be its swift eradication in the US, we know there will be a lot of restoration work required to help society recover from its long wake of disruption and devastation. This is certainly no exception in the education sector and we know that students of color and particularly students experiencing economic disadvantages have been disproportionately impacted by remote education access barriers (such as access to devices and reliable internet connections) during the public health crisis. 

While students — including those we serve at Reading Partners — have shown determination, flexibility, and incredible resilience this past year, targeted assistance is necessary to help students navigate the learning path ahead. With that in mind, we are encouraged that the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress on March 10 and signed into law by President Biden on March 11 includes a number of provisions that will help support students and families as they work to recover from an exceptionally challenging year. 

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Here are some of the bill’s investments that will have a direct impact on student learning:

  • Over $120 billion to help public K-12 schools open more quickly and safely for students, educators, and support staff. We know that in-person learning helps support students both academically and social-emotionally
    • 20 percent of that funding at the local level and 5 percent of the funding at the state level is required to be spent on actions that address student learning loss and social-emotional needs.
  • $7 billion to ensure that the 16 million K-12 students who lack reliable internet connectivity at home are properly equipped for remote learning. With vaccine studies still underway with children, we need to have a solid back-up plan for students who need to do distance learning for long or short stretches in the months to come. At Reading Partners, we plan to continue to leverage the innovative online literacy programs we’ve developed to support students and families in ways that work best for them.
  • $1 billion to expand national service through AmeriCorps. We are an organization fueled by 300+ AmeriCorps members each year and we believe in the power of a transformative year of community service. Expanding national service directly impacts our ability to serve more students and provides a proven pathway to prepare young people for future jobs.

And here are some indirect ways the bill has the potential to advance educational equity for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds:

  • Direct payments to families in middle- and low-income brackets 
  • An extension of unemployment benefits
  • Rental, utility, and mortgage assistance
  • Expanded child tax credits

Importantly, the bill is projected to cut child poverty in half and studies have shown a correlation between school-level poverty and educational opportunity and outcomes.

At Reading Partners we believe in the limitless potential of all of our students and we know that building early literacy skills, confidence, and passion culminates in a superpower that can propel children through school and life. We partner with hundreds of under-resourced schools and thousands of community volunteers to provide students across the country with high-dosage one-on-one tutoring sessions in an effort to deliver an equitable educational experience to all kids. There is undoubtedly a lot of work yet to be done on the road to true equity, but we are pleased to see several elements in the American Rescue Plan that bolster support for students and families who have so often been marginalized, especially during the past year.  

Header image source: WhiteHouse.gov

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