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Covid Live Updates: U.S. Education Secretary Urges Schools to Boost Tutoring to Make Up Losses – The New York Times

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Cardona Urges Schools to Invest in Extra Tutoring

Miguel Cardona, the education secretary, said reopening the nation’s schools without addressing the time lost from learning during the pandemic would be insufficient, and called on schools to use federal stimulus funds to invest in mental health counseling and tutoring.

Reopening schools and keeping them open, while it’s critical, it’s insufficient. Our hardest and most important work lies ahead. It’ll be what we’re judged against. And I want to be very, very clear, as educators and leaders, we’re either closing educational opportunity gaps or making them worse with the decisions we’re going to make in the next coming months and years. Our students’ success is at stake, not just the students we serve today. But also those who are yet to be born. Our country’s strength is at stake. Our status in the world is at stake. Safely reopen schools is just the baseline. It’s not good enough. We must make up for lost time. Our schools must offer increased access to mental health support for students, wraparound programs, meaningful and authentic parent and family engagement, and interventions for those students who felt the impact of the pandemic much more bluntly than others. Thanks to President Biden and Vice President Harris’ leadership in passing the American Rescue Plan and providing $130 billion, schools have the resources to not only stay open, but to invest in recovery. We moved with urgency, and I’m proud to say that 100 percent of the funds are now in the state’s hands for use to support our students, our families and our educators. And I’d like to challenge all of our district leaders to set a goal of giving every child that fell behind during the pandemic at least 30 minutes per day, three times a week, with a well-trained tutor who is providing that child with consistent, intensive support. We cannot expect classroom teachers to do it all. Districts have the American Rescue Plan funds available to them today to invest in these efforts.

Schools need to go beyond just ensuring they are open to help students during the pandemic and should use federal stimulus funds to increase access to tutoring and mental health counseling, Miguel A. Cardona, the education secretary, said on Thursday.

Mr. Cardona said the department has distributed all $122 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to states. The stimulus money was meant to help schools safely reopen during the pandemic and aid students in recovering academically from the effects of remote learning.

The secretary urged schools to hire more tutors, social workers and mental health counselors with the funds, challenging district leaders to “set a goal of giving every child that fell behind during the pandemic at least 30 minutes per day, three times a week, with a well-trained tutor.”

“Safely reopening schools is just the baseline. It’s not good enough,” Mr. Cardona said. “We must make up for lost time.”

Although many schools have reopened since the pandemic began, a shortage of teachers has forced some classrooms to temporarily shift back to remote learning. A surge in coronavirus cases has also led to some districts starting the year with online classes. While a significant part of the $122 billion set aside in the aid package was for tutoring, much of it will be online and not all of the technology being used guarantees that a teacher will be on the other end guiding the student.

President Biden has criticized some states for their use of the stimulus funds and urged district leaders to use the money to keep schools open. The Education Department has sent letters to at least eight states, including Arizona and Florida, rebuking them for attempting to institute policies that federal officials say have not helped students return to the classroom safely, such as banning mask mandates in schools.

“Many states and school districts have spent this money very well,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference last week. “Unfortunately, some haven’t.”

Mr. Cardona also underscored the need to increase wages and professional development resources for teachers to ensure that they stay in the field. Schools have seen droves of educators leave during the pandemic as many are burned out after trying to help students recover academically and working overtime because of staffing shortages.

“Moving forward, it’s on us to make sure education jobs are the ones educators don’t want to leave and that people from all backgrounds want to pursue,” Mr. Cardona said.

The secretary also said he would push to increase funding for the Title I program, which aids schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which he said would help give every eligible child with a disability access to a “free, appropriate public education.”

He also addressed federal student loan repayments, which have been paused for nearly two years since the pandemic began and are set to restart on May 1. The Biden administration has faced calls from Democratic lawmakers to forgive thousands in student debt through executive action.

Mr. Cardona pointed out that the administration has canceled $15 billion in student loan debt so far, and that the department would be “supporting” borrowers once repayments start again.

We’re committed to supporting every student loan borrower when they transition back into repayment,” Mr. Cardona said. “No one should be forced to make a payment they cannot afford.”

The Biden administration’s mandate, which is to take effect in stages, will ultimately affect about 10 million health care workers in 76,000 hospitals, nursing homes, home-health agencies and other providers that participate in Medicaid and Medicare.

The vaccine requirement goes into effect this week in states that did not challenge the mandate in court, including California, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York, as well as all U.S. territories.

Health care workers in most of the remaining states, where a lower court had blocked the mandate, will have until Feb. 14 to receive a first dose. For Texas, the deadline falls on Feb. 22. To keep their jobs, all health care workers must be fully vaccinated a month after their first dose.

Some in the nursing home industry say the mandate could exacerbate staffing shortages and threaten care for older patients. They have repeatedly pushed for a testing option for their workers.

“We strongly support the vaccine and its effectiveness and authenticity, but we respect individual choice,” she said.

Supporters of mandates say they have spurred millions of hesitant Americans to get their shots and are needed to stem the spread of the virus, especially among vulnerable hospital patients and nursing home residents.

Nursing homes have already exhausted various financial incentives to encourage voluntary vaccination, including lotteries and giveaways, said Dr. Brian McGarry, a health researcher at the University of Rochester who specializes in researching long-term health care.

“I think the only kind of tool that’s left in the policy tool kit is a blanket mandate,” he said.

This content was originally published here.

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