Coalition asks Gov. Polis to prioritize equity and need in distribution of federal K-12 stimulus funding

Written by: Leslie Colwell
Date Posted: May 1, 2020

Last week, the Children’s Campaign joined 17 other organizations working with and on behalf of Colorado K-12 students and their families to encourage Gov. Jared Polis to prioritize equity and student need in the distribution of federal stimulus dollars.

On April 14, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced that nearly $3 billion is being made available for states under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under the CARES Act, these flexible grants are for governors to provide local educational agencies (LEAs), institutions of higher education (IHEs), and other education-related entities with emergency assistance to respond to the coronavirus.

In addition to $121 million of CARES Act funding for K-12, of which 90 percent must be distributed directly to school districts formulaically, Colorado will receive an estimated $44 million in GEER funds. The governor has significant discretion to distribute these funds as grants to LEAs (including charter schools and non-public schools) that the state deems “most significantly impacted by the coronavirus” to provide educational services.

With such a limited pool of resources, and such great need across Colorado in this moment, it is important that resources be targeted effectively to make the biggest difference for kids. To a great extent, this will mean interrupting inequitable practices that exist in our current system of resourcing schools and students.

In establishing a process for distributing GEER funds to K-12 education entities, the coalition letter asks that Gov. Polis:

  1. Ensure that the limited GEER funds are targeted to serve the students who are below proficiency and most chronically under-supported in our current system by establishing eligibility criteria that account for student need and a school or district’s lack of ability to raise additional funds to meet those needs;
  2. Ensure that GEER funds are spent on effective, proven strategies for learning and support that will be valuable to students and families;
  3. Ensure that the proper transparency and reporting mechanisms are in place so that GEER funds reach the intended students and to make learning about best practices possible; and
  4. Establish an equity task force to provide ongoing thought partnership and oversight over how GEER funds and other federal stimulus dollars are distributed and spent.

The COVID-19 crisis and accompanying school closures have laid bare the profound inequities in the lives of children that impede their school success. In this crucial moment, Colorado has the potential to be an innovator and leader among states in moving to address the COVID-19 crisis, and specifically distribution of the GEER funds, with an equity lens.

Read the full letter to Gov. Polis here. Interested in signing your organization on in support? Reach out to Leslie Colwell at leslie@coloradokids.org.

Leslie Colwell

About Leslie Colwell

Leslie Colwell serves as the Vice President of K-12 Education Initiatives, leading the Campaign’s work to improve education in the state of Colorado. Before joining the Children’s Campaign in August of 2014, Leslie worked to facilitate partnerships and produce policy agreements, especially in the area of education as an Associate at The Keystone Center. Her professional experience includes working as Legislative Director for State Senator Mike Johnston, managing his education policy portfolio (including his office’s work on HB12-1238, Colorado’s READ Act, and SB13-033, ASSET), and directing a policy fellowship for educators for three summers. Leslie has also worked on Teach For America’s alumni team, and before that taught 6th grade Math and Earth Science as a TFA corps member at Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles. She currently serves on the board of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO) and on the steering committee of the Colorado Afterschool Partnership.