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California Teachers Call Out Priorities for Investing Federal CARES Act Funding

June 16, 2020
In a New Teach Plus Report, Teachers Recommend Prioritizing Funds for Technology Training; Students and Staff Mental and Physical Well-Being

SACRAMENTO, CA—In a new report, Teach Plus California Policy Fellows present feedback from teachers across the state on where they see the greatest need for additional investment of federal funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, within the categories identified by the federal government. The teachers’ recommendations fall within three key areas: technology, internet accessibility, and related training; mental and physical well-being of students and staff; and ensuring teachers have a voice in shaping systemic solutions to meet student needs. Teach Plus aims for the recommendations to inform local and state-level decision-making as schools prepare to open in the fall. 

“The results of our survey provide state and local district leaders with direct feedback from frontline educators regarding what they see as priorities for investing supplementary federal funds. We hope that these results are helpful and will inform their decisions about what teachers and students need to be successful as we move forward through the summer and into the new school year,” said Sarah Lillis, Teach Plus California Executive Director. 

Findings

  1. The need for one-to-one technology and internet accessibility remains a primary concern as K-12 teachers consider how to use additional federal funds.
  2. The mental and physical well-being of students, staff, and families is a priority for educators for additional federal funding.
  3. Educators believe that schools need to use additional CARES funds to address a broad range of needs to improve learning outcomes during and after the pandemic, including staffing, curriculum development, professional development, and interventions.

Recommendations

  1. In addition to providing one-to-one technology and internet accessibility, districts should utilize CARES Act funds to provide effective training to students, staff, and communities to maximize the use of one-to-one technology and internet accessibility.
  2. District and school leaders should put forward clear and concise plans that prioritize mental and physical well-being of students and staff and maximize the impact of CARES Act funds through creative community-based solutions.
  3. As district leaders make plans for investing CARES Act funding, they should make sure teachers have a voice in shaping systemic solutions and ensure they receive effective professional development, space, and flexibility to meet students’ academic needs.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). Of that, California K-12 schools will receive about $1.65 billion to help relieve budget stress. State leaders are also proposing utilizing more than $4 billion of additional CARES Act funds to support K-12 students and schools.

In addition to focusing their recommendations in the areas of technology, well-being of students and adults, and systemic solutions, teachers in the survey expressed concern that the school closures have had a disproportionate impact on California’s most high need students, exacerbating and widening existing opportunity and achievement gaps.  

Teach Plus urges local leaders to act intentionally, developing plans for instructional continuity that are substantively informed by the experience of educators, students, and families. As Jennifer Click, a Teach Plus Policy Fellow and chemistry teacher in Fresno Unified said, “We need to use these additional resources to help reimagine what school looks like. To do that, we need solutions-oriented teacher voices at the table while important decisions are being made about how schools reopen in the fall.  I hope that state and local leaders will read this report and consider the insights and recommendations of classroom teachers who are closest to students.”

Teachers are also looking to state leaders to help ensure these new resources are used to address barriers to educational equity in the new school year. As Teach Plus Policy Fellow Jamey Olney testified in an informational hearing in the Assembly Education Committee on June 16, “Access to quality distance learning has been incredibly uneven across California. We need leadership from the state to ensure that we do better moving forward and put necessary safeguards in place so that our most vulnerable students get access to instruction, effective accommodations, and support.”

About Teach Plus
Teach Plus is dedicated to the mission of empowering excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that advance equity, opportunity, and student success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students.  teachplus.org