Quality distance learning, including summers, essential for students

The following excerpt is from a guest column by Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, and Alice G. Thompson, chief executive officer of Black Family Development, Inc. Click here for the full column.

It’s hard to plan for the future when our state, our nation and our world are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. But when it comes to the education of Michigan’s children, we must move now, boldly and with purpose, to ensure the closure of schools this spring and anticipated financial problems our state will face don’t handicap the future of 1.5 million students in grades K-12.

The stakes for vulnerable students could not be higher. Students from low-income families, students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, and those in foster care or who are homeless have long been underserved and often left behind. Between under-resourced schools and often with less advantage at home, such as lack of access to technology devices and internet, these students are at high risk for even greater learning loss and wider academic gaps due to this crisis.

This means we need to be prepared for a major new investment in schools and to rethink how our education system is set up. We need to address the discrepancies in equitable funding that lead to less opportunity and fewer supports for students with the greatest need. To get there, we need to follow three important steps.

First: Invest and invest more now. That will not be easy. But it is vital if we truly care about our future.

Second, be strategic… State leaders must step up and provide a plan for high-quality, consistent distance instruction aligned with college- and career-ready standards and ensure this instruction is available in all of Michigan’s districts.

Third, educators and district leaders should be delivering a message of inclusivity, compassion and support for one another by addressing head-on the growing racism and damaging xenophobic bullying we are seeing in the wake of the pandemic.

During this time of physical distancing, it is more important than ever that we come together to address both immediate and long-standing inequities in Michigan public education. Together, and with a focus on long-term solutions, can we truly address the inequities that continue to put vulnerable students at a significant disadvantage.

Click here for the full column.

Michigan Increases Food Security for Students

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the State of Michigan is the first state in the U.S. approved to expand food assistance through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program for the families of students who typically receive free- and reduce-priced lunch and breakfast at school. By early May, approximately $375 per student will be provided through existing Bridge Cards (providing Michiganders with food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) or new EBT Cards. This amount reflects the cost of school meals from late March through the end of the school year.

Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest applauded Michigan’s efforts to do even more to provide food security for the more than 750,000 students who depend on school for free or subsidized breakfast and lunch. “Pandemic EBT will layer additional access to much-needed food assistance for vulnerable students and families. Other expansions include school meal pickup sites and delivery, as well as expanded benefits and access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through Disaster SNAP.”

“Michigan students depend on school for a wide range of needs, in addition to a quality education. It is critical to ensure that essential services provided to students at school remain available while schools are closed,” added Arellano.

Tweet of the Week

@EdTrustMidwest: .@ArellanoTweets & Alice G. Thompson of @BFDIDetroit in @BridgeMichigan today: "During this is more important than ever that we come together to address both immediate and long-standing inequities in #Michigan public education." #miched #mileg