teachers, and schools are struggling with the abrupt shift to virtual learning
brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The transition has been particularly hard on families attempting to support their children’s education at home. Many families need financial assistance to supplement these costs. And another essential component—broadband access‐is unavailable for nearly 12 million children living in homes without internet.
Further, private schools are struggling to keep their doors open. The coronavirus pandemic has created record unemployment, and many families are trying to get by with less. Some families are finding it hard to make tuition payments to their children’s schools. Without the income they need to operate, many private schools could close.
Without private schools, families lose a valuable choice in where they can send their child to school. Private schools benefit families for many reasons, but key among them is that a private education is often a better fit for their child’s unique needs. These closures would also be devastating to public schools, as private school students will have to enroll in the public system, which is already facing significant budget challenges of its own.
Fortunately, congressional action can give states the flexibility and opportunity to address these issues and ensure families have the education options they need. Eighteen state think tanks sent a letter to Congress with policy recommendations to ensure all students have access to a quality education. State think tanks asked Congress to include the following solutions in any future federal relief legislation:
Enable school choice and provide direct support to families
- Expand the use of 529 education accounts to be used for K-12 homeschooling and other educational expenses.
for the direct distribution of funds to families to be able to continue and
support their child(ren)’s education via Emergency Education Savings Accounts
a “Student Check Up” Account that provides parents with funds to use
over the summer for tutoring, testing, or other expenses to assess student
progress and to provide a plan to ensure their children are progressing
states to use any new K-12 allocations to fund Student Safety Scholarships for
families that do not wish to send their child back to their local public school
this fall for safety-related reasons.
Support private schools
a federal tax credit for donations directly to private schools. Allow
non-itemizers (who use the standard deduction) to deduct up to $2,000 or more
in cash donations to private schools from their federal taxes.
- Provide a temporary refundable tax credit for low income families
to assist with private school tuition.
- Require that any proposed funding to Local Education Agencies
(LEAs) be equitably shared with nonpublic schools and charter schools.
- Require State Education Agencies (SEAs) to inform all private (and public charter schools) of the amount of funding accessible.
- Require the state ombudsmen, created under ESEA 1117(a)(3)(B), to administer equitable shares for private schools.
Improve internet access for families who need it
- Address online equity issues for low-income and rural communities
by expanding E-rate and providing incentives to spur broadband infrastructure.
Options may include simplifying the permitting process and providing financial
incentives for contractors that meet deadlines. A competitive grant program
could aid the creation of broadband infrastructure in rural communities and
should include local community support from parents, schools, and local
- For any
additional E-rate funds appropriated, allow Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to
be eligible only if they demonstrate they are actively working to educate
students if the school year is still in session or, if the school year has
ended, are developing plans for the 2020-2021 school year to accommodate
distance learning as needed.
Support teachers and the transition to distance learning
a stipend (microgrant) for teachers to learn to develop and deliver distance
learning. Florida approved $200 stipends for up to 10,000 teachers to get them
trained to adapt traditional in-person curriculum to digital/online
instruction. Private, charter, and public school teachers could be eligible.
Read the full letter here.
state think tanks