LANSING, MI - Governor Gretchen Whitmer held a virtual press conference on Wednesday, August 19th, at 2:00 pm.
The conference went live on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter to give an update on schools and was joined by Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Senator Winnie Brinks, Representative Sheryl Kennedy, and the Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools Dr. Leadriane Roby to discuss funding for schools.
Gov. Whitmer announced that she will allocate nearly $65 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to Michigan school districts, higher education institutions, and other education-related entities that have been most significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes schools in Michigan’s economically disadvantaged districts, and will help address the digital divide that has served as a barrier to remote learning for students and educators across the state. The funding comes from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund.
“As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and approach the start of the new school year, we must continue doing everything we can to protect our students, educators, and support staff. This funding will help us do just that, and ensure crucial support for our schools, whether it’s helping schools access PPE and cleaning supplies or helping students mitigate the impacts of learning loss in districts that need it most. This is a good start, but we still need the federal government to work together on a bipartisan recovery package to support all Michigan students and educators, as well as state governments, families, and small businesses,” said Governor Whitmer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on Michigan’s students, educators, and support staff, especially those in low-income communities. GEER funds are meant for districts that are determined to be most significantly impacted by COVID-19. To ensure these districts are targeted, the framework distributes $60 million to school districts based on the number of students in high-need student groups. Districts will receive funding based on their numbers of economically disadvantaged students, special education students, and English language learners. To be eligible for funding, the school district’s concentration of economically disadvantaged pupils, compared to total district enrollment, must exceed 50%.
Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun went over statistics and reported the state has now had 93,662 cases and over 6,340 deaths as of Tuesday and states the virus remains a constant threat. Khaldun also reminded residents to take precautions against other health risks.
Representative Sheryl Kennedy spoke and said, “As a lifelong teacher and school administrator, the success and well being of our students has always been my top priority. My entire professional life I’ve been committed to leveling the playing field for all students enclosing achievement gaps. It has put a spotlight on the issues that have long effected communities of color, working class, and rural communities with fewer generational privileges. These challenges include equitable access to quality healthcare, technology, and education and districts that are facing financial hardship have higher levels of children living in poverty, have non speaking children or more children requiring special education. Now more than ever, we have a responsibility but to also lay the foundation for a better future.”
Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Robby thanked Gov. Whitmer for her leadership, “The GEER funds announced today are a significant step forward in equitably meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of our most at-risk youth,” said Roby. "She is hopeful that during the upcoming budget discussion we can build upon this progress. Our children are counting on us.”
Gov. Whitmer concluded by thanking the press and everyone who continues to help have the press conference to relay information for the people of Michigan.
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