The past few weeks have been difficult and disquieting for all of us. The dramatically changing conditions under which we now live and work demand that we reassess how to best serve students and families. The current closure of the legislature in response to COVID-19 presents a new reality. Colorado Succeeds and many of our partners have redirected efforts to align with the Governor’s number one priority of keeping Coloradans healthy and safe.
With the recent stay-at-home orders, it is unlikely the Legislature will resume in the Spring. Once they do reconvene, it is expected to be short and focused on “must pass” legislation related to the crisis, the state’s budget, and the School Finance Act. Until then, we have shifted to working directly with Governor Polis, the Colorado Department of Education, other state agencies, and directly with school districts and schools.
900,000 K-12 Students Must Now Learn from Home
Across Colorado there are over 900,000 K-12 public school students who are now at home in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Our immediate concern is that all Colorado students, educators, and the workforce have access to the resources, food, and healthcare they need right now. Ensuring that Colorado students and education providers have the tools and resources they need to continue learning through distance learning will also be critical.
We are working closely with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to understand what type of supports are needed for online learning, adapting educators, technology and internet access, and extended learning likely to occur this summer. We are actively monitoring guidance from CDE regarding instructional time, graduation requirements, and supports for our most at-risk student populations like English Language Learners and students with disabilities.
Colorado Succeeds is also actively tracking the latest stimulus package from D.C. and are engaging with members of the Colorado delegation and through other national partners to support increased resources for K-12 and early childhood education and care.
On March 27, the United States Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act (CARES Act), to help stabilize the economy. Related to education, the package includes:
- $13.5 billion to support K-12 education budgets, as well as additional aid for student nutrition
- $14.25 billion for higher education
- $3.5 billion in immediate assistance for childcare providers to prevent them from shutting their doors, which equates to about $41 million for Colorado
- Both for-profit & non-profit childcare businesses with less than 500 employees will be eligible to apply for small business loans of up to $10 million, of which 8 weeks of monthly payroll, mortgage/rent, and utility payments will be eligible for forgiveness
- Authority for the Department of Education to offer new waiver power to states
Colorado Succeeds is also supporting efforts directing the Federal Communications Commission to use the federal E-rate program to fund internet access for millions of students who are now learning online from home. While this provision wasn’t included in the stimulus, additional stimulus packages are expected in the future that could address long-term education needs over the summer as well as additional ways to unleash widescale internet access.
Banding Together as a Network
We are actively engaging the Governor and business leaders around more specific ways you can use your time, talent, and resources to help students. These opportunities will be shared in the coming weeks. In the meantime:
- We compiled a host of resources to help students access high-quality curriculum, to help educators access tools to virtually meet with students, and to help workers transition successfully to working from home. Please share across your networks.
- Consider donating to the Governor’s Relief Fund. Gov. Polis, in partnership with Mile High United Way and other funders, launched a funding campaign to help offset the cost of services and resources across multiple sectors (healthcare, emergency supplies, ECE, K-12, first responders). Funds will be dispersed based on priority for immediate need.
- Are you doing anything help your specific school or district in response to COVID-19? If you are, please share with us so we can publicize and learn more about what specific schools and districts are doing to continue to teach and help students succeed.
These are unprecedented times. Colorado Succeeds’ is dedicated to our mission to build a bridge from the classroom to industry. Right now, that mission looks different than it did just a month ago. But we are hopeful that this situation will provide us with new learnings and exciting opportunities for what lies ahead. More than ever, it will be important to focus on agility as we face the challenges of transforming education and repairing the economy.