Agenda: Fiscal Impact of COVID-19 on the State Department of Education
Department of Education (DOE):
BOE will be sending out a sheet to the Committee with all funding that will be distributed to districts on Monday, June 26. There were some issues with the CARES Act funding identified, such as the funding being correlated with Title 1 money how some districts would fair based on that formula. The Department is trying to supplement services they can offer to districts including bulk purchases and online content, the department will track who is utilizing these services and report back. The department is researching options to extend out the timeline that districts have to spend their budgets, originally all spending must conclude by June 30, some districts are requesting it be pushed back by 60 days.
Summary of Appropriation Committee Key Education Concerns:
The committee raised concerns regarding; buses, magnet schools attendance rates and compliance, classroom equipment and storage, private school’s participation in re-opening strategies, distance learning and how it impacts working parents, how can we further engage ELL students, and how we can more fully utilize paraprofessionals. The Committee and the Department reinforced students with special needs should be prioritized for in school programming and special services.
Nick Simmons from the Governor’s office has established a Rapid Connectivity Task Force to try assist with internet issues across the state, working with providers to develop strategies to help families in need. While the task force has been primarily focused on short term concerns, they acknowledge the need for a long-term planning as well. There is a section under the CARES Act that would look to put more federal dollars into addressing these issues, Connecticut has submitted a proposal for funding.
Discussion of Fall Learning:
The department feels strongly they will be able to provide in school learning for the fall. The department hopes to have a re-open strategy in 1-2 weeks for all schools. There was a discussion about who should lead the re-open strategy, if it should be the districts or the department. The department wants to ensure that the state has a consistent response, including what safeguards to be used. The state has allowed districts to have more flexibility during the summer school programing than they anticipate they will allow during fall programing. The state may allow some schools to continue with in-person learning, even if some districts must go to online learning with a possible second wave of COVID 19.The department also mentioned there is a Task Force specifically developed for transportation concerns weighing the public health safety guidelines and realistic plans the state can make. This plan will be laid out with the re-opening plans.
Technical Schools are working on multi-phased options to ensure student can access resources online and through schools.
There were some questions raised regarding whether Charter schools would be eligible for any additional funds, and that while the department stated that they would like to ensure there is equity in per pupil payments for charter schools, they vocalized a concern about whether funding would be available in the budget. There was discussion regarding the department taking the money from the two charter school closures to help improve the per pupil funding for the other schools. Senator Osten expressed willingness to help redirect those funds.
The meeting was more in the tone of a conversation, with many legislators questions requiring additional follow up from the department.