ALABAMA – Education advocates are urging state leaders in Alabama to use the millions of dollars the state is receiving in federal emergency funding to advance equity and support children and families disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 school closures.
The Alabama Department of Education is set to receive nearly $217 million in funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and at least 90 percent of those funds will go to districts across the state. Gov. Kay Ivey will separately receive approximately $48 million as part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund) under the CARES Act. The law gives the state significant discretion on how its share of these funds are spent.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Ivey and state Education Superintendent Eric Mackey, the SPLC Action Fund, Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and several other groups warned that without a strategic investment of resources, the opportunity gap between students could widen during the pandemic due to inequities in access to technology, space to learn and caretaker support.
The letter urges the state to direct its share of the funding to schools with the highest proportion of children of color, children experiencing homelessness or financial hardship, children with disabilities, children in immigrant families, children in foster care, LGBTQ children and children in the juvenile justice system, and to keep public funds for education in public schools.
The groups commend the state for seeking community input on the use of the funds through a survey released last month, but encourages continued engagement by establishing a task force made up of a diverse group of parents, educators, students, counselors, advocates and other education experts to help guide the state’s plans for the new funding and ensure that evidence-based decisions are made to reduce or eliminate educational inequities.
“With millions of federal dollars for education relief coming to Alabama, Governor Ivey and Superintendent Eric Mackey have an opportunity to ensure that the thousands of children across Alabama who are unable to attend school in person due to the coronavirus have the supports they need to continue learning at home,” said Shay Farley, the SPLC Action Fund interim deputy policy officer for the Southeast.
“Students with disabilities and low-income students will likely face some of the biggest hurdles, including a lack of access to technology, school meals, and health and mental health services. In this time of crisis, they no doubt will need a substantial amount of resources to support their learning. We urge state leaders to be intentional in allocating the funds towards serving students with the greatest need.”
Other groups signing the letter include Alabama Arise, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Birmingham Federation of Teachers, Intercultural Development Research Association, Hometown Action, and Human Rights Campaign Alabama