School districts seeking additional funding to help offset the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for a grant from the Education Equity Fund.
The fund, created by the Michigan Department of Education, is aimed at helping to close the technology gap and provide mental health services for students and staff.
A little more than $37 million in funding is available. The funding is part of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) Fund from the CARES Act passed by Congress this spring to help offset the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Federal law gave discretion of those dollars to each state department of education,” William DiSessa, a spokesperson from the Michigan Department of Education, told The Michigan Star. “The ESSER Education Equity Fund is an MDE initiative and the grant application will be sent to local school districts soon.”
Although all school districts and public school academics can apply for the funding, priority will be given to school districts that are more than 85 percent economically disadvantaged, have more than 20 percent of students with disabilities and more than 10 percent of English learners. Priority will also be given to districts that have at least one school that is more than 85 percent economically disadvantaged.
A district that is not eligible for an initial ESSER grant can apply for up to $87.34 per pupil 2019-20 state aid per pupil foundation allowance.
Private schools are “afforded equitable services” within their local school district, DiSessa said.
“Additional funding from the federal government is crucial in closing the technology gap and ensuring our kids can receive a great public school education as we continue fighting COVID-19,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a statement. “This past school year, we learned how important it is to ensure students have the resources and support they need to continue learning from home. This federal funding will help ensure access to these resources, help our teachers easily reach their students at home, and help our students continue to learn and grow despite the crisis we’re facing.”
The grants can be used to purchase educational technology — including hardware, software and to boost connectivity — and to provide mental health services and supports.
“The coronavirus pandemic shines a light on many of the existing inequities in education,” said State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich in a statement. “This grant program will help to address some of the most pressing needs as students continue to feel the brunt of uncertainty.”
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter at The Michigan Star and Star News Digital Media. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair.Email her at [email protected]