How should Kentucky’s CARES funding be used? With equity, we hope

Thanks to Congress’ approval of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, states are now set to receive over $30 billion of emergency education funding to help offset any impending budget crunches on the horizon. Kentucky’s K-12 public schools are slated to receive roughly $193 million of CARES funds, which the Department of Education says can be used flexibly to address the unique challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The biggest question? How state officials and school district leaders can use that money wisely. 

We join the chorus of other advocacy groups like the Prichard Committee in calling on Kentucky’s leaders to use their CARES funds to promote equity for all students. This global health crisis already presents incredible challenges for Kentucky’s marginalized students — it is imperative that our leaders intervene before learning disparities widen even further.

At the state level, we hope that the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman are able to strike a deal to allow school meal programs to continue, as more than half of Kentucky’s children are considered economically disadvantaged.

We also encourage state leaders to consider how these CARES funds could be allocated to school districts with the greatest need. While all Kentucky schools have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, we must ensure that schools with larger populations of special needs students and English language learners have the resources they need to weather this storm.

For school districts, the flexibility of Kentucky’s CARES funds allows district leaders some leeway in choosing how they will address the challenges ahead. As the 2019-2020 school year winds down in districts across the state, now is the time to start having conversations about how we can use those funds to ensure equitable outcomes for all students.

For example, districts can use their CARES allotments to shore up staffing, provide students with Chromebooks, or fund virtual learning programs that could help struggling students. As leaders continue brainstorming ways to combat the extended “summer slide” that students will inevitably experience, they must be sure to think carefully about those students which have been most impacted by this crisis. A budget is a values document — let’s hope that equity is at the forefront in determining how to use these funds.

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