Lightford072220CHICAGO – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) applauded Gov. JB Pritzker’s announcement Tuesday that he is dedicating $60 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds to support P-12 education.

The funds will help bridge the digital divide, protect the health and safety of students, and overcome barriers created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have deep concerns about making sure our students can properly continue their education in the midst of a crisis we were unprepared for,” Lightford said. “I applaud the governor for identifying these key areas and guiding funds in the best interest of our most vulnerable children.”

Early childhood programs across the state will receive $10 million to support professional development, to help address the social-emotional needs of young children through Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, and to launch a text messaging project to help parents support their children’s at-home learning. Preschool for All and Prevention Initiative programs in areas most impacted by COVID-19 will receive flexible funding to support home learning materials, personal protective equipment, technology and additional staffing.

K-12 schools will receive $50 million in three areas: closing the digital divide, training for educators and parents, and social-emotional supports for students.

“Closing the digital divide is vital for our students’ success, and it is going to take continued commitment,” Lightford said. “We need to ensure every student has an equal opportunity at a quality education, despite the challenges COVID-19 has presented, because we know these disparities are not new.”

Pritzker has announced an investment of $40 million to help close the digital divide so K-12 students can engage in robust and meaningful learning opportunities, whether in-person or at home. School districts will receive $32.5 million to purchase devices, such as laptops and tablets, and $7.5 million to purchase WiFi hotspots and increase internet connectivity for students and families.

Gov. Pritzker will invest $7.5 million in training for K-12 educators and families, so they can support students’ growth holistically and strengthen their understanding of new technologies and learning models.

The Illinois State Board of Education will receive $2.5 million to create the Student Care Department. The Student Care Department will lead the development of an inter-departmental student health and safety team, will promote best practices for social-emotional learning, will review and respond to constituent concerns about student safety and wellbeing, and will provide targeted assistance to school districts.

The application for the grants can be found here.