Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday that she is allocating $65 million in federal funds to Michigan school districts in economically disadvantaged areas.

The funds, which come from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will be used to help school districts address the digital divide.

To ensure that the funds go to districts in low-income communities, $60 million of the funding will be distributed based on the number of students in high-need student groups, like economically disadvantaged students, special education students and English language learners.

The other $5.4 million will be sent to other education related entities, including statewide mental health services, public television learning resources, implementation of teacher professional learning practices and the Early On program to help reach more infants and toddlers through remote early intervention.

At least 50% of a school district’s total student body must be economically disadvantaged pupils to be eligible for the funding.

“Both from a public health and from an educational standpoint, economically disadvantaged communities need these additional funds to keep students safe and academically engaged,” Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart said. “Equity in education funding is a critical issue and it’s encouraging to see Gov. Whitmer remain committed to addressing disparities so every student gets a great education no matter where they live.”

Districts will be able to use the funds to:

  • Help bridge the digital divide by providing devices, internet access, access to remote services or other similar things
  • Enhance access to remote and in-person mental health services for students
  • Offer supplementary content and intervention services to mitigate the impacts of learning loss
  • Support out-of-school-time learning, ensuring students have safe spaces to participate in remote education
  • Address digital and non-digital content where remote learning continues as an instructional delivery model
  • Provide additional professional development and curriculum modifications that allow districts to effectively facilitate distance learning
  • Adapt to COVID-19 protocols laid out in the MI Return to School Roadmap

Whitmer called on Congress to pass another economic stimulus package that includes more funding for state governments dealing with budget shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” Whitmer said.

Michigan had 94,278 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Wednesday, and 6,349 people have died from the virus.

Of the confirmed cases, 3,061 are in Genesee County, and 274 people in the county have died from the virus.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...