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Virtual Learning Gets A $180 Million Controversial Education Grant Boost

May 18

By Keianna Dixon

  • Education Secretary Betsy Devos announced a $180M grant expanding virtual learning, and digital access that could benefit Black students
  • A majority of Black Democratic voters at 65% support school choice

In an effort to expand virtual learning and school choice, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos announced a $180 million “Rethink K-12 School Models” grant program for the states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Families could use the voucher-like grants to pay for digital access at home, tutoring, counseling, or summer programs. It’s quite possible that Black students would benefit from grants for digital learning, due to lower rates of this access compared to White students.

Why This Matters: School choice refers to charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, and other alternative education. A majority of Black Democratic voters at 65% support school choice, according to a 2018 Benenson Strategy Group Poll. Black proponents of school choice claim that public schools do not provide adequate education for Black students.

A majority of K-12 students at 53.9% exercise school choice

Since the coronavirus pandemic has forced many states to move education online for the rest of the school year, these grants will allow for the formation of statewide virtual learning. So far, 124,000 schools and 55.1 million students have been impacted by these changes, according to EdWeek. The CARES Act carved out $81 billion for education aid that these grants are a part of.

A majority of K-12 students at 53.9% exercise school choice, according to the most recent data from 2016 by the National Center for Educational Statistics. This includes Black Americans, who make up 26% of charter school enrollment though representing just 13% of the U.S. population.

Situational Awareness: School choice remains a divided issue, and the NAACP has an official stance against it. Congressional critics slammed the grant program as pushing the agenda of the Education Secretary, who is known as an advocate for school choice at the expense of public schools.

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