Van Hollen, Cardin, Trone Introduce Bicameral TRUE EQUITY Act to Strengthen Federal-State-Local Educational Partnerships
New bill seeks to elevate the educational reforms under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future to national-priority status
U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmen David Trone, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin (all D-Md.) announced new legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would provide an additional $1.4 billion in federal grant funding for states and local communities that commit to transformative policy changes and allocate significant additional resources to address education inequities.
Purposefully aligning with the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the legislation — the Transformational Reforms and Updates to Ensure Educational Quality and Urgent Investments in Today’s Youth Act (TRUE EQUITY Act) — aims to strengthen the partnerships between the federal, state and local governments. The overall goal is to positively leverage those partnerships to ensure educational equity and eliminate academic achievement gaps in exchange for stringent accountability measures. In Maryland, these new federal grants would cover a significant portion of the costs to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which soon will be enacted into law by the Maryland General Assembly.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the inequities in our education systems that must be addressed,” the lawmakers said.“We applaud the hard work of the Kirwan Commission, which developed feasible and necessary recommendations to transform Maryland’s public schools and eliminate these educational inequities our children face. In the coming weeks, the Maryland General Assembly will work to enact these necessary changes into law without further delay through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. We wholeheartedly support these efforts and have introduced the TRUE EQUITY Act to establish a stronger federal partnership with state and local communities dedicated to eliminating these inequities and provide their children a world-class education.
“Team Maryland stands united to support the ongoing work to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The members of our delegation will work in the coming months and years to modify federal laws to provide students with the equipment and broadband access necessary to eliminate the Homework Gap and fully participate in virtual learning. We also will work to expand the number of food-insecure children eligible for free school meals, strengthen the high school and community college partnerships to provide students with career and technology education and dual enrollment courses, and to bolster federal resources that can alleviate the implementation costs to state and local governments.”
Under the TRUE EQUITY Act, an additional $1.4 billion would be available to partner with state and local efforts to ensure educational equity and quality with stringent accountability measures. Specifically, this legislation would:
- Early Childhood Education: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $275 million, that bolsters state and local investments in our youngest learners to prepare them to enter school ready to learn. In Maryland, this can expand access to all-day Pre-K and Judy Centers serving low-income families.
- High-Quality and Diverse Teachers and Leaders: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $340 million, that supports additional teacher training and ensures educators are utilizing the latest practices. In Maryland, this would support statewide growing needs for special educators.
- College and Career Readiness Pathways: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $50 million, which builds on state and local efforts to ensure that students have access to college and career pathways by 10th grade. In Maryland, this would expand access to certificate programs and dual-enrollment Pell.
- More Resources to Ensure All Students Are Successful: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $750 million, which strengthens funding for programs that reduce achievement gaps and provide wraparound services for children. In Maryland, this would provide needed funding for low-income students, English learner students, children with disabilities, expansion of physical and mental health services, and afterschool and summer learning activities, as well as the purchase of educational technology devices.
- Governance and Accountability: Require that any state applying for funding under the TRUE EQUITY Act establish an independent State Oversight Board that has the ability to hold state and local school districts accountable for failing to meet the state-established educational equity goals. TRUE EQUITY Act grant renewals would be contingent on meeting educational equity goals. In Maryland, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act recommendation to establish an Independent Oversight Board would allow Maryland to qualify for the TRUE EQUITY Act grants.
All four grant programs created by the TRUE EQUITY Act provide a federal match of $1 for every $2 invested by state and local communities above Fiscal Year 2019 spending levels, with state and local communities receiving one of the new grant programs required to provide a Maintenance of Effort of at least the previous year’s funding level. In Maryland, these federal grants cover a significant portion of the costs to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, bringing up to $1.4 billion in new federal funding to the state.
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