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Groups Urge Louisiana to Use Federal CARES Act Funding to Address Educational Inequities

LOUISIANA – Education advocates are urging state leaders in Louisiana to use the millions of dollars the state is receiving in federal emergency funding to eliminate education inequities and support children and families disproportionately affected by the covid-19 school closures. 

The Louisiana Department of Education is set to receive nearly$287 million in education funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and at least 90 percent of those funds will go directly to local education agencies across the state. The law gives the state and districts significant discretion on how these funds are spent. 

In a letter sent Friday to the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), the SPLC Action Fund, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights (LCCR), and ten other groups that represent a diverse group of students, educators, families, and advocates from communities across Louisiana warned that without a strategic investment of resources, the pre-existing opportunity gap between students could widen during the pandemic. 

The groups offer a framework for how state leaders can provide leadership, guidance, and support to districts in use of the emergency education funding to promote educational equity tostudents who have access to resources they need to continue learning at home and those who do not. They urge the state to use the funding to target 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.

The letter states that following school closures related to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it took two full years to recover student learning loss. 

“As we learned from Hurricane Katrina, school closures during and following the novel coronavirus crisis will have significant educational implications for vulnerable student populations, said Lauren Winkler, senior staff attorney for the SPLC Action Fund. “Through the federal CARES Act education relief fund, Louisiana has an opportunity to ensure that these students do not face prolonged learning loss by providing the supports they need now to recover quickly once schools re-open.”

Joining the SPLC Action Fund and LCCR in sending the letter was CASA New Orleans; Davida Finger, Clinic Professor, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law; Families Helping Families of Greater Baton Rouge; Familias Unidas en Acción; Louisiana Budget Project; Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights; Louisiana Parent Training and Information Center; New Orleans Youth Alliance; Orleans Public Education Network; South Louisiana Coalition for Education; and Ubuntu Village NOLA.