By: Madeleine Ashour, Senior Legislative Associate
In addition to students returning to school, it’s been an action-packed month in the education scene in the Centennial State.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the state Department of Education and education advocacy organizations are working together to leverage CARES Act funding and federal grants to innovate, bridge the digital divide and problem solve. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Polis and a more than $50 million education investment, Colorado students will have access to the learning tools and resources they need to succeed following the impact of COVID-19.
On September 9, Governor Polis launched the $32.7 million Response, Innovation, and Student Equity Education Fund to quickly provide additional academic, social and emotional supports to students most affected by the pandemic; including low-income students, students of color, English learners, students with special needs, students experiencing food or housing insecurity and students in foster care. School districts, public charter schools, tribes and early childhood councils can apply, and extra points are given to ideas that serve rural students, communities most impacted by COVID-19 and that use evidence-based strategies to advance equity.
“We must do more to expand opportunities for every student to receive an education that prepares them for a bright future. Which is why I’m thrilled to announce this transformative funding program that supports real innovation to close equity gaps in our communities, help our students rise, and share what works with others.” – Governor Jared Polis
Public-private partnerships play a critical role in bridging the digital divide. Colorado is partnering with T-Mobile’s Project 10Million to provide free mobile hotspots and up to 100 gigabytes of annual data for 34,000 low-income households. The Colorado Department of Education allocated $2 million in CARES Act funding to help school districts to purchase hotspots and other creative solutions to rural connectivity problems.
“Most folks think about the digital divide along urban and rural lines. But by the numbers, more families lack internet here on the front range than in all of rural Colorado combined. That divide falls along income lines. Even before COVID hit, we already had an unacceptably large achievement gap. Thanks to great work by Governor Polis and many others, we are on our way to ensuring that a lack of internet access doesn’t make that gap even worse.” – Senator Jeff Bridges
In support of Colorado’s youngest learners, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the state a $16 million grant to implement the Colorado Comprehensive Literacy Project, which Commissioner Katy Anthes said will “enable the state to build upon the progress from the READ Act, which focuses resources on students in kindergarten through third grade. This grant will allow us to support learning prior to kindergarten and after third grade. And it will allow us to focus on historically underserved populations.”
“I hope that this money will be used to support teachers and parents to learn about and have a better understanding of the science of teaching reading. The READ Act specifically targets K-3 students. However, reading instruction should begin prior to Kindergarten and continue through high school. With encouragement, learning and support, parents and teachers will be prepared to make sure students succeed.” – Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education
Governor Polis, the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Education Initiative also announced that they will continue partnering with Rocky Mountain PBS to “provide K-3 students, their families and caregivers with direct-to-home remote lessons in literacy, science, art and math through Colorado Classroom: Learn with Me at Home.” Programming began on September 7 and will air for 15 weeks. Accompanying lesson plans for families, caregivers and their children are also available on the website.
For additional resources for state leaders on COVID-19, including highlighted solutions from states across the country, visit ExcelinEd’s COVID-19 resource library.