There is no denying that the history-making items in the proposed 2022 federal education budget will impact our schools. By combining the 2022 budget proposal with The American Families Plan, the Biden education policy has signaled clearly that this administration’s goal is to level the playing field for all students, while also increasing opportunities for everyone.
In describing the intent of the educational funding within the American Families Plan, the White House stated, “Investing in education is a down payment on the future of America.”
With increases in funding over and above what has already been provided to help schools recover from closures and other impacts of the pandemic, the plan includes increased years of free schooling and assistance for the most disadvantaged and at-risk students. It is also intended to shore up American schools overall.
The questions that today’s educators face include: how will the Biden education policy affect their schools? How can administrators make the most effective use of the funds available to them, especially as they consider the challenges of reopening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety of students and staff?
The Impact That the Biden Education Policy Will Have on K-12 Schools
School administrators need to pay attention to the key elements of the Biden educational policy: the extended years of free schooling that will be available to students, the additional funding available for teachers and support staff, and the increased resources for special education and behavioral health programs.
Extended Years of Free Schooling
As part of President Biden’s plan, free schooling for students would be extended beyond the current thirteen years currently provided. With two additional years added to preschool and two additional years of free community college, all students will have access to education that can make them better prepared for school and for life.
For some school districts, this could mean an opportunity to add preschool classes to their existing curricula. More classes within the school environment for three- to four-year-olds will allow administrators (even in underserved and poorer communities) to ensure that young students have a solid grounding in the fundamentals needed to be successful in their education. It could also provide opportunities for administrators and staff to build relationships sooner with families that may have a greater set of needs, allowing schools to plan and prepare for expanded support and wrap-around services for those families.
Whether preschool children are part of the elementary school or come to the school from other institutions, educators need to plan for more students who are better prepared to start kindergarten.
That also means planning for students who will still need to be brought up to speed to meet the bar set for kindergarten. These students may struggle with the change and with being behind their peers. Tracking student behavior and instituting positive interventions, even at this young age, can ensure greater success throughout their educational career. Red flags, like chronic absenteeism, will need to be addressed quickly to ensure that students start off on the right foot.
On the other end of the spectrum, high school administrators and educators will need to assume that more students will take advantage of post-secondary opportunities. Much like their primary counterparts, high school educators need to take a new view of preparation and student engagement, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Helping these students succeed will mean ensuring that they are keeping up with their peers and the curriculum. The transition from junior high to high school can be especially challenging. Slipping in freshman year can result in students being unprepared for the advantages that the Biden educational policy will provide.
During these critical years and throughout a student’s high school experience, early intervention can mean the difference between being able to attend free college or falling behind. Acting out in class, truancy or chronic absenteeism, and even grade slippage can be signs that a student is at-risk. Teachers and high school administrators need tools to help better track and monitor warning signs, see trends as they are happening, and easily share and refer students for help. Integrated technology tools, like ScholarChip’s Alternative Behavior Educator, can make initiating and creating positive behavior intervention plans simpler and more effective.
Expanded Pool of Teachers
Biden’s plan and budget include funding for more teachers and support staff and expand the opportunities available for teacher training for people of color and those in underserved communities.
Teachers from all walks of life and backgrounds will have more opportunities in the field of education, while administrators will have a larger pool of well-trained teachers to choose from and the resources to do so.
Of course, as the pool grows, schools and districts will need to provide competitive salaries to attract new teachers and retain existing staff. Beyond salaries, however, many teachers look for schools that offer a safe and supportive environment.
Ideally, an administrator should strive to make their school an employer of choice. Beyond financial compensation, that would mean shoring up health and safety programs and protocols within a school. While some of these programs can be straightforward and paid for with ESSER funds, other opportunities may be less obvious.
Taking advantage of modern research and results in frameworks like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and Response to Intervention, can prove to future teachers that you are committed to the success of the students and the safety and care of the entire school population.
Greater Funding for Special Education & Behavioral Health
Biden’s educational policy also focuses on long-neglected areas of public education: special education and behavioral health.
Within President Biden’s education plan is a $1-billion allocation of funds in FY2022, intended to double the number of school psychologists, counselors, nurses, and social workers. This will set schools on a path to better help students with disabilities and those with non-traditional or extended needs.
Of course, these resources will need to have the right policies and tools in place to be truly effective. Since support staff members don’t have the daily contact with students that teachers do, these tools should help set the stage for any ongoing or historical challenges or interventions that can point to a student’s particular needs.
Having this data readily available, consistently recorded, and contextual will enable counselors and others to provide targeted assistance to these students. A tool like the Alternative Behavior Educator can give that context, so intervention plans can be used before incidents become issues.
The proposed Biden educational policy signals coming changes for all students and schools. School administrators need to start by considering the entire picture that these changes present if they are to make the most of them. Having additional resources and funding is welcome, but plans must be made and executed to ensure that schools are ready for an influx of students with access to preschool education and that the resources are in place to prepare high schoolers for additional years of education.
Administrators must also consider the best ways to identify at-risk students and have a variety of supports and programs available to provide what they need. Even if they’ve done so recently, administrators need to use this opportunity to review their existing procedures and policies for helping students with support needs and add in the foundational elements and tools needed to make the most of the new funding.
The ScholarChip team is dedicated to helping school leaders maximize the safety and well-being of students and the entire school community.
Want to talk more about creating an actionable plan for these funds to help close the learning loss and make reopening effective and safe? Feel free to chat with one of our specialists today!