Week 176
August 13, 2023

It is week 176 of our new reality and we are thinking about what it will take to build new bipartisan coalitions for change.

A recently released Gallup poll charts the growing partisan divide in the United States, finding that on nearly every issue the gap between Democrats and Republicans has increased over the past 20 years. One area where this divide has increased is in satisfaction with K-12 education. In 2002, Democrats and Republicans were separated by just four percentage points. In the latest survey Gallup found a 21 point gap.

That’s why we’re excited to see Aditi Goel, an alumna of 50CAN’s National Voices fellowship, propose a session at SXSW Edu: “Common Ground: Moving Beyond Partisanship in K-12 Education.” We hope you will take a moment to vote for her panel and help her put a spotlight on how we can work together again to put kids first.

Last week, we put the spotlight on a Congressional hearing on generational learning loss that served as a powerful forum for a candid assessment of what went wrong and what we need to do next. This week we look at how federal Covid funding was spent and explore the push to decriminalize address sharing.



Follow the money and demand accountability

For the past ten months, 74 Million reporter Linda Jacobson worked alongside reporter Asher Lehrer-Small to follow the use of federal Covid education dollars across a series of districts. The culminating piece, “$190B Later, Reason to Worry Relief Funds Won’t Curb Covid’s Academic Crisis” sparked a vigorous conversation in education circles when it was released late last month.

As the relief package was being designed, we made the case that it was missing accountability and transparency conditions on how districts would spend these funds. Now, it seems that the absence of both has left no one knowing if the historic investment actually helped kids.

“We just started to hear frustrations from families, from advocates, from the community that districts stopped following up with the public about were they actually executing on those plans and how was the money actually rolling out,” Linda Jacobson shared with us in a new video interview. “It’s not all spent yet, but we’re several years in. So we should know something about how that money is being spent … the categories for reporting have just been too large and vague, and I think that’s what frustrated a lot of people in the community.”

There are bright spots worth emulating. One Jacobson points out in our interview is Fulton County schools in Georgia: “they never stopped talking to the community about how they were using this money …There’s a staff person who at every single board meeting would update on the spending and some of the big areas where they were spending it such as literacy and dropout prevention.” There is still time to demand that level of transparency from every district.

As Jacobson and Lehrer-Small explain it in their article, “With just over a year left to allocate the funds, the question isn’t only if districts will hit the September 2024 deadline, but whether the unprecedented windfall will leave students better off.”

to demand that districts use any remaining funds on supplementary education services that will directly help students to catch up and to provide an accounting of how all federal funding was spent–line by line, dollar by dollar.

Decriminalize address sharing

When great organizations collaborate it’s usually worth taking note, and that’s very much the case for the new report authored by Available to All’s Tim deRoche and Bellwether’s Hailly Korman and Harold Hinds. “When Good Parents Go to Jail: The Criminalization of Addressing Sharing in Public Education” addresses both the causes and prevalence of school districts punishing–often through the justice system–parents who are trying to find a better school option for their children.

“Just over a decade ago, Kelley Williams-Bolar made a decision that dramatically changed her family’s trajectory – both in ways she hoped and in ways she never imagined. The decision? Using her dad’s home address to enroll her daughters in a school in another township a 15-minute drive away from where they lived in Akron, Ohio,” Alia Wong writes in an article for USA Today that draws upon the research in the new report. “The hoped-for change? At least for a moment, Williams-Bolar’s daughters were able to attend middle and high schools that were relatively safe, well-funded and just a short walk away from their grandpa’s home. The unimaginable change? Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in county jail followed by three years of probation. Her father, too, was jailed, despite being in his mid-60s and in poor health. In fact, he never made it out alive.”

The report finds that 24 states have laws on their books that criminalize parents’ using a relative or friend’s address to gain access to a zoned school.

to determine if your state is among the 24 that criminalize parents exercising choice and, if so, to begin the necessary conversations in the community and capitol to drive change.


HawaiiKidsCAN is putting a spotlight on the tragic fires that swept through Maui and encouraging everyone to give to the Maui Strong Fund.

From sea to shining sea. Despite a difference of six time zones, parent advocates from GeorgiaCAN and HawaiiKidsCAN connected this week to share their experiences advocating for change at school boards and statehouses and to learn best practices from each other. Jacquetta Williams, a parent fellow from Augusta, reflected after the event, “Upon discovering that many common issues faced in Georgia were also prevalent in Hawaii, we engaged in a discussion about how we could be more beneficial to both the community and students. We also explored the profound impact of recognizing the achievements of young leaders who hope to pursue ambitious goals beyond the scope of their small-town upgringing.”

Amanda Aragon, executive director of NewMexicoKidsCAN, joined the Bob Clark Show to talk about the challenges and paths forward for lagging student achievement in the state. Additionally, the team has been closely following the story of how the local teacher’s union is fighting officials attempting to create more frequent communication with families. Amanda continues to drive public awareness by covering the story on NMEducation.org and an appearance on local news.

TennesseeCAN hosted a welcome reception for new Education Commissioner (and National Voices Fellowship alumna) Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, where Executive Director Victor Evans expressed excitement for her leadership and collaborations moving forward.

Key Resources

The Hunt Institute will host a webinar on September 22 to reveal the results of their new survey of American parents’ needs and desires, with one year remaining before the ESSER deadline.

A new Ed Working Paper looks at tutoring programs and concludes that successful implementation “hinged on the support of school leaders with the power to direct school funding, space, and time” while a second paper finds that only “21 percent of those who left for private schools in fall 2020 had returned by fall 2021.”

A new Calder Center report explores the extent to which summer school is helping students recover from Covid-related learning losses.

The Brookings Institution brief provides examples of community-connected learning in action along with best practices drawn from the field.

Chad Adelman, writing for Brookings, explores the connection between school funding methods and schools’ spending decisions.

New research by the World Bank’s Harry Anthony Patrinos finds that for every week that schools were closed learning levels declined by 1% of a standard deviation, meaning that a 20 week closure would reduce learning outcomes by 0.20 standard deviation or almost one year of schooling.

Moment of Resilience

Last week was the closeout for Change Summer’s fifth year of offering free summer camp in partnership with leading charter schools around the country. At Camp KIPP DC, children grades 4 through 9 got to experience a sleepaway summer camp that offers campers the opportunity to expand their horizons through athletics, the arts, STEM, outdoor adventure, swimming and more while building lasting friendships. It’s a great example of believing in better and putting that belief into practice to expand the boundaries of what we offer students.

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