Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she will be allocating $65 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to Michigan school districts, institutions of higher education and education organizations, according to a press release sent Wednesday afternoon.  

The federal funding — which will come from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund — will be put toward educational institutions that have been most significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whitmer said the money will primarily be directed toward bridging the digital divide across the state to help students as they continue with remote learning.

“As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and approach the start of the new school year, we must continue doing everything we can to protect our students, educators, and support staff,” Whitmer wrote in the press release. “This funding will help us do just that, and ensure crucial support for our schools, whether it’s helping schools access PPE and cleaning supplies or helping students mitigate the impacts of learning loss in districts that need it most.”

Though Whitmer called the funding “a good start,” she wrote the state still needs the federal government to work together on a bipartisan recovery package to support Michigan educators and students.

To decide which school districts are most in need of the funding, the framework sets aside $60 million to be issued to districts that have a large number of high-need students, including economically disadvantaged students, special education students and English language learners. A district’s number of economically disadvantaged students must exceed 50 percent for them to be eligible for the funding.

Schools receiving GEER funding will be required to use them to promote remote learning training and materials, teacher training and curriculum and addressing learning loss. Additional goals include internet connectivity, student mental health, safety and wellness needs identified by the district.

Additionally, $5.4 million of the funding will be issued to education-related groups to be used for public television learning resources, statewide mental health services, implementation of teacher professional learning practices and the Early On program to help reach more infants and toddlers through remote early intervention. 

In the press release, Don Wotruba, Michigan Association of School Boards executive director, wrote the MASB appreciates any assistance provided by the state, especially during times of need.

“The earlier budget deal helped to prevent cuts for all school districts and provided them with needed funding for COVID safety costs,” Wotruba wrote. “This new funding targets school districts that provide education services to children most at need.”

Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart wrote in the release the funds for these disadvantaged school districts are essential and appreciated.

“Both from a public health and from an educational standpoint, economically disadvantaged communities need these additional funds to keep students safe and academically engaged,” Herbart wrote. “Equity in education funding is a critical issue and it’s encouraging to see Gov. Whitmer remain committed to addressing disparities so every student gets a great education no matter where they live.” 

The University of Michigan’s Office of Public Affairs did not respond immediately to request for comment on how the funding would impact the University.

News Editor Barbara Collins can be reached at bcolli@umich.edu

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