Berkeley school district receives distance learning funding from state

As the new school year begins, Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, will receive monetary aid from the state’s Learning Loss Mitigation Funding program.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced Friday that $5.3 billion in learning loss mitigation funds will be split among all eligible local educational agencies in the state. BUSD will receive $5,288,054 in additional funding to support distance learning.

“Schools may be physically closed, but in California at least, class is still in session,” Newsom said in a press release. “While more work remains, districts across the state are in a far better position this semester to provide meaningful distance instruction to every child.”

The vast majority of the learning loss mitigation funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, said California Department of Education spokesperson Daniel Thigpen.

According to an estimate by the governor’s office based on current epidemiological data, more than 90% of students will begin the year with distance learning. BUSD will hold all instruction online for the fall semester.

“The funds are intended to be used to strengthen distance learning and to address learning gaps exacerbated by the pandemic,” Thigpen said in an email. “Uses can include educator training, purchases of devices or connectivity, and more.”

The funds in general can be used in schools to address learning gaps, increase instructional time, provide additional academic services and address outside barriers to learning, according to the California Department of Education’s website.

BUSD is still in the process of planning how it will spend its funding apportionment, according to BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott.

“This funding gives school districts a unique opportunity to invest in needed technology, address learning gaps and inequities experienced by students during the pandemic, and accelerate learning at a time when most districts across the state are starting their new school year virtually,” Thigpen said in the email.

Newsom also previously announced cross-sector partnerships with private sector companies to help bridge the digital divide and enacted new statewide requirements to ensure quality instruction through distance learning, according to the press release.

These new regulations include access to devices and connectivity for all students, live interaction with teachers and other students every day, assignments as rigorous as in-person classes and specialized lessons for English language learners and special education students, the press release states.

“In these challenging circumstances, our state has profound respect and gratitude for the parents and teachers who are doing all they can to make sure our students’ educational and social-emotional needs are met,” Newsom said in the press release.

Contact Claire Daly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @DalyClaire13.

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