Schools Desperately Try To Recover From Pandemic Losses

California is dipping into its COVID-19 relief funds to address the significant learning loss that students experienced due to the numerous school shutdowns that happened during the pandemic.

As part of a recent legal settlement, California will now spend $2 billion from some of the COVID-19 relief funds that are remaining to aid in this effort. The Public Counsel, a not-for-profit law firm, said those funds would go to various efforts including hiring tutors to help students.

Just about every California school was shuttered to in-person student learning, forcing students to learn remotely while the pandemic was in its early stages, as well as at various “spikes.”

According to Kelly R., one of the plaintiffs in the case who is from Los Angeles:

“Between March and June of 2020, neither of my children learned anything in school.”

It’s a problem that most schools throughout the country experienced at that period of time. Initially, just about every school closed in-person learning, shifting everything remote.

Some states kept the remote-only learning in place as students returned from summer break in the fall of 2020. Eventually, that shifted to hybrid learning, where some students would learn in person on certain days and from home the other days.

Even when that transition happened, some schools would shutter in-person learning for weeks at a time if a COVID-19 outbreak happened in their district, or if community levels of spread reached a certain point.

According to the lawsuit, the federal government gave public school districts more than $190 billion to help address this learning loss that took place from March of 2020 through March of 2021.

The plaintiffs in this case said that California didn’t ensure that school districts were using that money for the students who needed the most help.

As a result, the settlement will require existing funds that are in the Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant to be used on hiring tutors and taking other steps that will help students bounce back from this learning loss that they experienced.

Much of the funding will go toward helping students who already face education outcomes that are considered adverse, many of who are minorities and/or come from low-income households.

The senior special counsel for strategic litigation at Public Counsel, Mark Rosenbaum, explained:

“The urgent vision of this historic settlement is not just to recoup the academic losses suffered by California’s most disadvantaged students, but to erase the opportunity gaps altogether exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Public Counsel has said that this is “one of the largest education-related settlements in U.S. history.” The firm also said that California agreed to proposed new laws that would enable funds to be allocated toward “community organizations with a proven track record of improving student success.”

That law would mandate that agencies focused on local education operate by a Local Control and Accountability Plan. They would then need to report on the success of a program if it were created to help students with learning loss.