We Have the Money. Let’s Expand Education Options for All Students
In the latest round of federal stimulus, Missouri will receive about $2 billion in funding for public education. Of this, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) keeps 10 percent, or $200 million. What should DESE spend it on? How about supporting the education hubs that have already popped up to help parents with virtual learning? How about creating more of them so that students can access tutoring and other services to overcome learning losses and prepare for next year? Private organizations, such as The Mind Trust and the National Parents Union are already joining the effort.
A database collected by the University of Washington offers several examples of where this is already happening in Missouri. The Boys and Girls Club in Columbia created a virtual learning center this year that provides students in grades K-5 academic support for remote learning and enrichment activities. They charge $150 per child per week. The YMCA locations in Kansas City created the Y Learning Academy. They provide in-person learning support for children up to 12 years old. Staff members are trained in youth development and provide enrichment activities. They charge $35–$60 per child per day. The Timothy Lutheran Church in St. Louis created a virtual learning classroom for parents working outside the home. Church staff help students with their virtual learning. They charge $50 per child for a full day and $25 per child for a half day. The Discovery Center of Springfield created a Learning Support Care program for children in grades K-8. They offer multiple options, including having district teachers leading remote instruction while Discovery Center staff provide support and tutoring. They charge $40 per child per day, plus an additional $25 for tutoring.
These are just a few examples of what is happening across the state. These pop-up education hubs have become a lifeline for working parents. Undoubtedly, many struggle to pay the $150-$250 per week, but what are their other options to keep their children safe and learning? Where are the children with working parents who can’t afford private options?
If DESE used just ten percent of the $200 million in stimulus funding to support these programs, it could fund hundreds of thousands of weeks of learning. More hubs would give more students the chance to catch up and recover lost learning. As we emerge from the fog of COVID, we will need to pull out all the stops to ensure that every child gets the education they need. Supporting programs such as education hubs should be part of the plan.