President Trump issued an executive order on Monday allowing states to use COVID-19 funds to be provided as emergency learning scholarships for students who don’t have access to in-person learning. The funds are directed at families, not schools, and can also be used by homeschooling students. Gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox’s staff (R-Colonial Heights) said the program is similar to one that he introduced in the General Assembly.
“This summer Delegate Cox introduced the READ Fund to provide federal COVID-relief money to parents and students for virtual learning and educational resources like tutoring, technology, and internet access,” Cox’s Press Secretary Kristen Bennett said.
Cox introduced the legislation as an amendment to the budget bill during the special session, and the amendment would have allowed localities to reimburse parents for costs like tuition and therapy. According to the Jefferson Policy Journal, the former Speaker’s amendment was killed without debate in a straight party-line vote.
“Schools have been shuttered and parents are scrambling to find creative ways to educate their children,” Cox said before the special session. “One alternative that’s popped up is “education pods” where parents are banding together to hire tutors/teachers to come in and teach during this unprecedented time. We’re looking at using CARES Act money to create the Reimbursement for Educational Alternative Decisions (READ) Fund. This would allow localities to create a program to provide reimbursements to parents to help them pay for alternative education options during this pandemic.”
According to an October press release from Governor Ralph Northam, schools K-8 in Virginia have received over $500 million in emergency COVID-19 funds. However, with the failure of the READ fund, there was no mechanism to pass those funds on to parents who have incurred costs due to virtual learning.
With Trump’s executive order providing emergency learning scholarships, Virginian officials have another chance to help parents find in-person learning opportunities or offset homeschooling costs.
“While some families, especially those with financial means, have been able to mitigate school disruptions through in person options such as homeschooling, private schools, charter schools, and innovative models like microschools and “learning pods,” for many families, their children’s residentially assigned public school remains their only financially available option,” Trump said, warning that virtual learning at public schools is problematic.
“When schools close, the children that are already struggling get left even further behind and parents are left to pick up the slack all while trying to work full-time jobs. The READ Fund was a golden opportunity to provide additional resources and support for them during the pandemic, and we should absolutely continue to look for the best ways to support our students and parents during this challenging time while trying to safely reopen our schools,” Bennett said.
– – –
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Kirk Cox” by Kirk Cox. Background Photo “Virginia State Capitol” by Ron Cogswell. CC BY 2.0.