ADE Task Force Meets To Discuss Investment Ideas For COVID-19 Relief Funding
A task force made up of community members from throughout the state — including education, business and nonprofit leaders — met this week to discuss how the Arizona Department of Education should use discretionary dollars that it received from the latest COVID-19 relief package.
ADE received nearly $4 billion in ESSER III funding from the American Rescue Plan with nearly $2.3 billion going directly to schools, according to a department spokesperson. This task force is convening just to guide ADE on it’s discretionary funds, not to make recommendations to individual districts and charter schools on how to use their funds.
Some ideas that were brought up in the group were to use the funding to address staffing shortages, identifying and prioritizing students most impacted by the pandemic and addressing the digital divide, said Mark Joraanstad, executive director of the Arizona School Administrators, which represents 1,400 school leaders across the state. He’s also part of the task force.
“One of the ways that we really discussed was forming partnerships with some of the organizations that are already working serving families, really reaching out to community-based organizations, not just saying it's up to the schools to do it alone," he said, adding that schools are already understaffed and existing school staff are exhausted after a stressful year.
Roosevelt School District Superintendent Quintin Boyce, another task force members, said one of the biggest needs he sees is addressing students’ social and emotional needs, especially after a traumatic pandemic.
"I know that there’s a lot of urgency on learning loss, but I know and believe you can’t work in that space until you acknowledge and embrace and work through some of the trauma that’s happened over the past year and a half," Boyce said.
Boyce and Joraanstad agree that this one-time allocation of federal funds should be used for long-term efforts that will have a lasting impact on Arizona students and schools. Boyce would also like to see ADE and others taking advantage of this moment and funds to innovate public education, and not just go back to the way things use to be.
The task force will meet again at the end of the month.