Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Address Long-Term Student Needs Related to COVID-19

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today introduced legislation that would help accelerate academic progress and address students’ social, emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical health needs related to COVID-19. 

“Before this pandemic even began, students in Oregon and around the country were rightly demanding more support for their emotional, mental and physical health. This crisis has only made these needs even more acute, especially for marginalized communities that have been hurting the most. To do their best in school, students deserve more than just academic support,” Wyden said. “The Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act would provide school districts and nonprofits in Oregon and across the nation with the opportunity to access additional resources to more fully address their students’ needs and ensure their success.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, elementary and secondary public schools lacked sufficient funding and resources to provide all students with a high-quality public education. This challenge has been exacerbated by the pandemic and is likely to significantly worsen existing achievement gaps for students in low-income communities and communities of color. Students are also experiencing significant academic and mental health needs. Researchers estimate that school closures have resulted in several months of lost instruction in math and reading, and one study estimated that between 10 and 25 percent of high-risk students, including homeless students and students with disabilities, have been completely disconnected from school since the pandemic began. The consequences of the pandemic for children’s academic and social development are likely to be long-term: children in first grade this year may need additional support throughout their academic careers.

The Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act of 2021 builds on short-term COVID relief fund for schools to create a $100 billion application-based grant program administered by the Department of Education over the next ten years to accelerate academic progress and address social, emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical health needs related to COVID-19. This long-term program complements crucial short-term relief funds for schools and will encourage high-quality, evidence-based programs to support students throughout their academic careers.

This legislation reserves funds for the Bureau of Indian Education, rural areas, and applicants serving low-income students. The Department must also give priority to applicants serving disproportionately higher percentages of high-need students, including low-income students, students of color and Native American students, homeless students, migrant students, students in foster care, English learners, students with disabilities, and students most affected by COVID-19.

Along with Wyden, the Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

The Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act is endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Education Trust, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), National Urban League (NUL), Healthy Schools Campaign, American Student Assistance, Committee for Children, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Peekapak Inc., SEL4US, Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

A copy of the bill text is available here.

A one page summary of the bill is available here.

A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.

A web version of this release is available here.