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K-12 Education

What billions in funding could mean for Detroit schools & students

Three federal stimulus bills that include substantial funding for K-12 education have been passed in the last year: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, passed March 2020), the CARES Act II (passed December 2020), and the American Rescue Plan (passed March 2021; the largest amount of K-12 funding among the three). Together, these packages will invest more than $200 billion into our nation’s public education system. Michigan schools will receive about $6 billion of this.

Within these bills is a multitude of money pots, each with its own purpose (some specific, some broad) to be distributed to, or through, a variety of different organizations and intermediaries. It is a lot to boil down. And, with state legislatures in control of much of the disbursement, details will continue to develop as negotiations play out

Title 1 Funding: The K-12 stimulus funds follow the federal Title 1 funding formula, giving greater financial support to schools with higher numbers of students whose household income falls below the poverty line. Children whose families have the fewest resources require the most investment to nurture their well-being and get them on a track to leading a healthy and prosperous life.

The Title 1 formula is not perfect. For example, school districts with smaller student populations receive lower per-pupil allocations than those with more students. In other words, students with the same level of need will receive more or less funding depending on the size of their school districts. But it is an attempt at equity that is greatly needed now more than ever.

Yet, the headline for us is very clear. The stimulus funds create real opportunities to address students’ and schools’ immediate needs AND to redefine and rebuild how children and families are supported. They lay the ground for an equitable recovery. A way up for all Americans, and in particular, our children. 

Here’s what we’re most excited about:

America could cut child poverty in half.

There are several streams of funding across the three stimulus bills that put dollars in the hands of parents to shore up their households. The latest bill, the American Rescue Plan, promises to provide direct payments of $300 per child to single parents/caregivers making up to $75,000 or married couples making up to $150,000 a year.  

Other funding streams will also bolster families including: 

  • $300/week additional supplement for unemployment benefits extends through September 6, 2021  
  • $15 billion for childcare assistance to help parents get back to work 
  • $3 billion for renters falling behind on payments or at risk of eviction 
  • SNAP benefit increases will continue through the end of 2021 

The United States has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all wealthy nations. Growing up in poverty—whether it be in a child’s own household or in their community—is proven to be detrimental to physical and mental health. Additionally, fewer resources translates to fewer opportunities and prospects, making it extremely difficult to achieve economic mobility.  We can do better. We must for our collective future. By directing the greatest support to families with children who are getting by with the least, the American Rescue Plan could help safeguard our children, and in doing so, our nation’s future. 

We can mitigate learning loss—and more importantly, make sure our children are well.

Making up for lost instructional time and learning loss is a priority. Coupled with this, kids are hungry for opportunities to engage with peers and caring adults, to participate in activities that support their social-emotional development, and to venture out of their homes to safe spaces in which these interactions are possible face-to-face. The stimulus funds can support such opportunities at a pivotal time for young people.  

This is more than an opportunity to address learning loss. Even more importantly, it’s a chance to ensure kids are well. The educators, afterschool and summer program providers, literacy coaches, and others whose integral work will be supported by stimulus dollars will have the chance to develop or deepen trusting relationships with kids and their families. More money can be applied for mental health supports, to do meaningful outreach to build more trust with families and strengthen the supports across systems.  
 
An important part of these efforts is continuing to seek out youth who have become disconnected from school. The Detroit Public Schools Community District alone has seen an enrollment decline of 3,282 students, roughly 4% of their student population. The impact is seen across the age spectrum but concentrated in the youngest and oldest learners, from kindergarten-aged kids who were not enrolled in school this year over safety concerns to the high schoolers who became disengaged due to not having the technology needed to take part in remote schooling, working to contribute to household expenses, taking care of younger siblings in the home, and/or struggling emotionally with the impacts COVID has played in a formative year of their lives. 

We can invest in the well-being of the adults who care for our children. 

Research shows that supportive and sustained relationships with adults in schools consistently predict children’s resiliency, even in the face of traumatic experiences. We should be doing more to help educators and other adults who care for children, like daycare and afterschool providers.  

Increases in pay are only one side of the coin. We must provide supports to attract people to these professions and keep them there. This includes tools and resources for professional development AND supporting educators’ well-being on the whole.  

We can publicly recognize—and fund—afterschool and summer programs.  

Nationwide, billions of dollars are being directed to afterschool and summer youth programs. In early March, Michigan House Bill 4048 committed $112 million to support academic enrichment programs for kids this summer. This does not include funds that may come through the latest bill, the American Rescue Plan, and funds that will be allocated beyond summer 2021. 

Summer presents an opportunity to catch youth up on their learning, mitigate “summer slide” (learning loss that occurs when kids are not in school for the summer) and “summer melt” (where students who planned to attend college in the fall don’t register for classes), and nurture the overall well-being of our young people.  

Offering expanded learning opportunities isn’t only essential during the summer months, but all year round. Afterschool programs offer real-world experiences and skill-building that improve kids’ academic achievement and increase their employment and income as adults. But the kids who need them the most have been the least likely to have access to afterschool programs. By sixth grade, Michigan kids from low-income families have spent an average of 6,000 fewer hours in extracurricular development activities than their wealthier peers. 
 
The Foundation has been working with partners to strengthen learning opportunities at the city’s Summer Fun Centers for the last three years. A large portion of the dollars coming to schools will accelerate and expand opportunities for learning this summer and afterschool throughout the year.  The YDRC continues to offer support to program partners (see their listing of workshops and Summer Spark tool).  Afterschool providers have long prioritized and built capacity to build meaningful relationships with young people rooted in care and trust, this is exactly the kind of critical support and learning environment that will foster meaningful growth and development on all fronts. These dollars can foster much stronger relationships between school and afterschool partners for stronger impact on kids. 

Expanding access to afterschool and summer programs will not only help kids now but can have a longer term impact. The stimulus funds offer an opportunity for schools and afterschool providers to build partnerships and leverage braided funding, practices that can be carried forward into the future to better serve kids. 

This is an opportunity to elevate the role of out-of-school programs in the education system and to further prove their impact on youth outcomes in order to advocate for continued federal and state funding.   

We can call for parent and student voice to be centered in decision making. 

The Skillman Foundation’s perspectives and priorities are shaped by what we hear from students, parents, and educators. While we strive to serves as a voice for Detroit kids, we don’t seek to supplant their voices nor the voices of other community members. We advocate for the voices of those who are most impacted by decisions to be at the center of decision-making processes.  

We don’t always have a say in it. How the COVID stimulus funding gets spent is one of those times. Nevertheless, at any opportunity we have, we will push for student and parent input to be heard.  

Along these lines, Chalkbeat Detroit is collecting community feedback on how school leaders should spend the stimulus dollars. Let them know what you think! You can also leave a comment here on our blog. 

More than money: Detroit love and collaboration

The K-12 stimulus funds further our optimism that Detroit students and schools can rebound from the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified. Money helps. But people, trust and relationships are the solution for real change. 

The dollars are a one-time infusion.  And they are distributed across a lot of different decision-makers’ plates.  It will be easy for the money to be spent and no real change to be sustained.  

Our optimism is rooted in our work with Detroiters who can leverage this moment to rebuild and reimagine a new, better way.  If we choose to work in collaboration, transparency, and accountability to keep our eye on the long-term changes we want to see sustained.  There is an opportunity in front of us, to be realized in partnership with each other. 

The optimism we have is rooted in Detroiters. The educators and youth providers who dedicate their lives to instilling children with the confidence and know-how to make it this world. The parents, caregivers, and caring adults who give children the love, support, and confidence they need to take on each day. And the Detroit youth who inspire us with their talent, their vision, and their contributions to making their schools, communities, and society on the whole better for all.  

Our kids deserve more investment. It’s what we hope and believe Detroit will do with the short-term windfall to drive long-term changes and opportunities that really gets our hearts pumping.   

The Skillman Foundation

A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that serves as a fierce champion of Detroit children. The Foundation works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities, and college and career pathways.

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