With $2.1 billion earmarked for Kentucky education recovery, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey believes the commonwealth has an unprecedented opportunity to address persistent achievement gaps in the K-12 school systems.

Armed with this information and Kentucky’s access to these funds, the Prichard Committee is leading a campaign to educate families about how the American Rescue Plan will benefit students and help them recover from the pandemic’s impact on education. The plan was passed by Congress in March and contains numerous provisions to assist recovery from COVID-19.

Daviess County Public Schools is slated to receive $18,331,195 through the plan, and Owensboro Public Schools is set to receive $14,179,206. Funds were allocated based on the percentage of students who receive free and reduced-price lunches.

The Prichard Committee wants families and educational stakeholders to understand what the funds mean for school districts, and is encouraging them to provide feedback to local boards of education about student needs coming out of the crisis. Boards of education have until July 31 to submit their budget plans and fiscal assurances to the Kentucky Department of Education regarding these funds.

“Meaningful consultation with families and community stakeholders is a requirement of the American Rescue Plan,” Blom Ramsey said. “Many districts are already engaging the community, and we hope to see a sustained commitment over the next three years to these local guiding coalitions as a way to ensure full education recovery and building a new foundation for education success.”

OPS Superintendent Matthew Constant said the district plans to send out surveys and communication via social media platforms and other streams to allow the public to weigh in on the uses of the funds. Principals are also communicating with each school’s site-based decision-making council members to receive input.

DCPS Superintendent Matt Robbins said the county school district is planning a similar approach to receive feedback.

One of the first things DCPS plans to do in determining a use for the funds is to do a comprehensive needs assessment across the district, Robbins said.

“That takes a lot of time, to do it with integrity and fidelity,” he said. “So we said, let’s just begin with the things we need to have in place for the start of school Aug. 11.”

The district is planning to work from a school’s perspective to impact students in what Robbins called a “360-degree approach.”

There are plans in place to impact academics, but the district has also made great strides in helping students with mental and social-emotional health. The district has also hired additional health practitioners so their student-to-nurse ratio is smaller.

“We are looking at all those elements that really support the whole child,” he said.

Constant said OPS plans to hire additional staff to address learning opportunities and to “take a holistic and strategic look” in terms of five-year goals.

“A comprehensive strategic planning process will be undertaken,” Constant said. “Additionally, it gives us a chance to look at all our systems and processes and put some resources and attention to those.”

For example, over the next three years, due to the ESSER dollars, the district will dedicate an individual to scale world-class systems of supports for students.

“We will also have other special projects like this that need short-term attention that will result in long-term gains for the students,” he said.

On the Prichard Committee’s newly launched resource page, https://prichardcommittee.org/arpinfo/, an interactive map and information regarding these funds are available to stakeholders.

Of the funds allocated to K-12 education, 20% must be used by districts to address learning loss, according to the Prichard Committee’s resource page.

“The rest of local district funding can be used flexibly to make strategic investments to support students and teachers,” with examples including “accelerating student learning with extended school years, summer programs, tutoring, and other wraparound supports; safely reopening schools and upgrades to school facilities for healthy learning environments, and supporting the educator workforce and teacher pipeline.”

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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