American Rescue Plan
Top Fund Our School Priorities for Aug. 2021 Special Legislative Session
Lawmakers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to modernize our school infrastructure with one-time discretionary funding from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund. Virginia has an opportunity to invest in students and communities who have been historically under-resourced and most harmed by the pandemic. While these new federal resources can make a meaningful difference, we believe a long-term recovery will require the state to provide new ongoing support to divisions with a high share of students from historically marginalized backgrounds.
We have outlined four major priorities for appropriating the ARP state discretionary funding, in addition to existing state resources. We believe investing in these areas will prioritize attending to students who have been most negatively impacted by the pandemic, and lay the groundwork for sustainable infrastructure and service models that will last for years to come.
Schools need Wraparound and Support Services
Investing in community schools provide a hub of social services at school sites and support for families and students to access education and other ARP services, such as shelter, food, utilities, housing and rental assistance, child care, Head Start, unemployment, broadband and tax credits. Additionally, many English Learner students live in immigrant families that have faced unique barriers over the past year and may not have qualified for federal aid programs. The state should invest further in community-based organizations that serve students in immigrant families.
Create and Fully Invest in the Equity Fund
Students attending high-poverty schools need critical investments in their future that address the many barriers they face. The state should create the Equity Fund, as recommended by experts in the Virginia Board of Education, and invest $62 million per year through fiscal year 2024.
Fully Invest in Allowable General School Infrastructure
Our schools need infrastructure investments to prioritize student health and safety.
Invest in Broadband Access and Affordability
The state should use federal funds to follow through on its longstanding goal to fully expand broadband across the Commonwealth under the VATI program. Furthermore, the state should also tackle affordability challenges for low-income families so they have high speed services at home.
“Let’s use that to lower class size,” she said. “You can put desks together and still have three feet distance. Let’s do some of these things and still meet the needs of kids. Let’s end simultaneous instruction. If there needs to be remote, let there be a remote situation for students and parents who really need it.”
AFT President Weingarten says with federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan, it’s more of a reason to find solutions for reopening and “recovering.”
Randi Weingarten, AFT President