Pritzker rolls out plan for schools to spend federal K-12 education funds


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education announced a plan to “renew K-12” funding, and laid out a roadmap for how the state’s four thousand public schools should spend federal Coronavirus relief funds provided in the ‘American Rescue Plan.’

The 184-page document, titled a ‘Learning Renewal Resource Guide,’ recommends school districts use their share of the federal funding to expand education services to include after school programs, advanced tutoring, summer camps, longer school days, or expanded yearly calendars to help students make up for lost time.

“We’re all here today because of the tremendous challenges that this pandemic has created for every child in this state,” Pritzker said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference in Elgin.

He noted how many parents might struggle with remote learning and as students adapt to using technology. “Sometimes you’re worried about whether they’re learning at all,” he said.

Dr. Jennifer Gill said 45% of the students in Springfield District 186 are in a hybrid phase, learning partly in the classroom, and partly remotely.

“I just don’t think we’re having as much face-to-face contact with students as we’d like to have,” Gill said, who serves as the district superintendent. “Even in a remote setting, it just gets it’s hard for a student to have concentration on a screen for that long throughout the day.”

“This has been a tough year for our students,” Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton said Wednesday.

Pritzker said a new plan from his administration would start “assisting our schools to make this new $7 billion count over the next several years to overcome the pandemic’s effects on our students, and our parents, and our educators.”

Dr. Carmen Ayala, superintendent of the State Board of Education, reported that nearly 100% of the state’s school districts have returned to offer “some in-person instruction.”

The State Board of Education’s Coronavirus dashboard says 4.59% of Illinois school districts continue learning entirely remotely, while 45% of districts are learning in-person, and 50% are using a blended hybrid approach with in-person and remote options available.

“With the influx of federal funding, and the Learning Renewal Resource Guide, we are now presented with a unique opportunity to transform systems of learning for students to reshape our new normal so that our students return to an education system that is more equitable, more individualized and more responsive to their needs,” Ayala said.

Vic Zimmerman, superintendent of Monticello’s school district, said, “there’s some positives that are going to come out of this, too.”

“There’s probably some learning loss,” Zimmerman acknowledged, “but if you think a little deeper about that, there are some learning gains in other areas. We have kindergarten kids who can do Zoom meetings.”

(This story was originally published on April 1, 2021)

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