When it comes to securing federal funding for your distance learning and remote student connectivity programs, simply educating yourself on the myriad of legislations, provisions, and programs for which your school or district is eligible can seem daunting. The first step, however, is to get a broad understanding of how the U.S. government supports K-12 education and the umbrella programs that exist within the Department of Education.
While this blog is by no means intended to be an exhaustive guide, we hope it will give you some useful and helpful information to help you get started.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who believed that “full educational opportunity” should be “our first national goal.” Since then, the U.S. government has allocated funds towards supporting low-income students and families with the goal of creating equity in its public education system.
The ESEA has been modified and reauthorized throughout its history to provide scaffolds for specific groups, such as bilingual students, Native American students, and students with disabilities. In 2002, it was reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which instated higher standards for school leaders, teachers, and student performance.
The ESEA was most recently reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. This version advances equity efforts for disadvantaged students and focuses on measures to ensure that all American students in the U.S. meet high academic standards.
The Title I program, a provision of the ESEA, was created with the goal of supporting the schools across the U.S. with the most at-risk student populations. Title I identifies public schools and districts with high percentages of students from low-income, homeless, or abusive families and outlines how its $15.4 billion in available funding can be allocated to support them.
Federal Title I funds are granted at the state level for allocation to schools and districts. Schools may target specific students with these funds or, if 40% or more of its students are below the poverty line, may opt for a schoolwide program instead. As of 2019, about 25 million K-12 students were served through Title I.
Read our blog about using Title I funds during COVID-19.
COVID-19 Relief: CARES and CRRSA
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shift to distance, hybrid, and blended learning environments has heightened the demand for digital tools, devices, and Internet connectivity for students. In fact, for the 15-16 million students across the U.S. affected by the digital divide, access to the Internet has become a crucial determinant of whether they are able to participate in school at all.
The federal government has responded to this pressing and widespread need through two key pieces of legislation: the CARES Act and the CRRSA Act.
In March 2020, Congress signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. The plan contained formula funds that could be applied to state and district responses to COVID-19.
- Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) Fund – The ESSER fund released $13.2 billion in supplemental funding for K-12 schools and districts. Any initiatives related to school improvement or COVID-19 response are eligible for use of this fund, such as cleaning and sanitization as well as distance learning and student connectivity solutions.
- Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund – The second CARES Act component that can be used to support K-12 digital equity is the GEER fund, which released $3 billion into the purview of state governors for broad application. These monies can be awarded to school districts, as well as any education-adjacent organizations such as nonprofits, childcare organizations, and public health agencies. Like ESSER funds, GEER funds can be applied retroactively.
- Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) Discretionary Grants – Congress set aside $180 million of the Education Stabilization Fund to the CARES Act for the purpose of awarding grants to states with the highest COVID-19 burden. This Rethink K-12 Education Models (ESF-REM) Grant makes provisions for remote learning.
- Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Allocation – Finally, the CARES Act also included $69 million in relief support to the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). In addition, the CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund set aside $153.75 million for BIE programs and initiatives. These funds can be utilized for K-12 schools in tribal lands, including technology and connectivity solutions.
To learn more about how CARES Act funds can specifically be used to support distance learning initiatives, check out our webinar featuring panelists from the U.S. Department of Education.
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, signed into law in December 2020, released an additional $54.3 billion towards K-12 education to supplement CARES Act funding.
ESSER II and GEER II are largely similar to their CARES counterparts, but they do contain a few key changes. For example, all allowable uses for ESSER II remain, but school districts are no longer required to give a share of ESSER funds to private school students within their district lines. Support for private schools is now a subset of the GEER II fund.
In addition, this package saw an across-the-board expansion of all Title I funds.
It is likely that there will soon be more pandemic relief funding headed for K-12 schools. If the House and Senate pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposed by President Joe Biden, another $170 million will be released towards K-12 schools and higher education. On February 5, 2021, the Senate voted to proceed with the budget reconciliation process, which could stretch into March.
Funding Student Connectivity
While each state and school district may have its own digital learning needs and challenges, they share a common goal: to bridge the digital divide by ensuring that students of all ages, abilities, locations and socioeconomic backgrounds can participate in a level academic field and access the same learning opportunities.
Kajeet is committed to leading the charge to close that divide with our suite of safe, affordable, and mobile broadband solutions. The Kajeet SmartSpot® is a personal WiFi hotspot, which allows students to connect to filtered Internet using any device. Kajeet also offers LTE-embedded devices, including both Chromebooks and Windows laptops, that combine WiFi access with a student-friendly device to create an all-in-one distance learning solution. In addition, the Kajeet SmartBus™ solution enables school administrators to extend the classroom to the bus with secure school bus WiFi.
As a response to the urgent need for distance learning solutions, Kajeet created Distance Learning Bundles. These bundles include the trusted Kajeet wireless solutions, the Kajeet Smartspot® and Sentinel-Ready™ LTE Chromebook, which are bundled with flexible data plans ideal for distance and hybrid learning initiatives.
The tool that unites all Kajeet solutions is the Kajeet Sentinel® platform, our patented, cloud-based administrator software. Sentinel provides school and district leaders with full visibility into student activity on school-issued devices and powerful data and device management capabilities. Administrators may track student engagement on devices, track school- or district-wide usage, allocate data based on utilization rates, and allow or disallow websites based on the district’s requirements.
Kajeet solutions are eligible for many of these federal funding sources, especially those that promote educational equity and student connectivity. With a wide range of federal funding options available to states and districts, schools can successfully partner with Kajeet to pave the way for a connected, engaged and productive generation of students.
As with any effort, the most difficult part is getting started. Remember that Kajeet is here to help as you embark on your journey towards securing funding for your school community.
Contact us today to learn more about how to launch a student connectivity program with Kajeet.