Jill Biden Visits Athens to Promote Summer Learning Program – Flagpole – Flagpole Magazine | Start Classified

First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Athens last Thursday to promote a key intelligence piece on her husband’s American rescue plan.

The first lady’s visit came hours after the White House announced that President Joe Biden had contracted COVID-19. Jill Biden didn’t mention her husband’s diagnosis during her brief remarks, but at an earlier stop in Detroit, Biden said the president is feeling fine and working remotely.

The first lady’s office said she tests regularly and wears a mask, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for close contacts.

Jill Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited the University of Georgia, where students at nearby Barnett Shoals Elementary School will be tutored this summer.

Georgia received $4.2 billion from the American Rescue Plan’s Emergency Relief Fund for Elementary and Secondary Schools, of which the state is allocating about $1 billion for academic recovery, according to the White House.

About $193,000 of that money went to Horizons National, an educational capital group, to expand its year-round program for Athens children.

Biden, a veteran teacher who earned his PhD in education and now teaches at a community college, would visit children as they conducted educational activities and watched them splash into a college pool for swimming lessons.

She told parents she witnessed firsthand the pitfalls of the pandemic school closure.

“Just like you and your students, I’ve been teaching on Zoom, and that’s how I saw how hard it was for my students to keep them engaged and focused,” she said.

Biden said the president understands that a return to the classroom hasn’t eliminated the learning loss or social and emotional toll of pandemic-related school closures, and that summer learning programs like Horizons are helping to get kids back on track.

“One thing I love about my husband, our president, is that he understands the importance of education,” she said. “We talk about education all the time because I’m still in the classroom and he comes home and he’s like, ‘How was your day?’ I tell him everything about my students and he feels like he’s right next to me in the classroom. He gets it. And that’s why passing the American Rescue Plan was so important, because we knew we had to help our children, be it academically, emotionally, or socially.”

Biden and Cardona’s visit was part of a multi-state tour of similar programs with stops in Michigan and Connecticut.

“The American Rescue Plan dollars are meant to provide programs like this and offset some of that time that students can study with their teachers, study with their friends, and we’ve seen great examples of that and we’ve seen some wonderful examples here today ‘ Cardona said.

It looks like investing in tackling learning losses is starting to pay off, said Stephen Owens, an education policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

“As we compare the data across the country, we’re beginning to see some benefits as students regain much of the lost classroom time,” he said. “My own child’s school added 30 minutes to the school day and had to compensate staff accordingly. Districts have been reluctant to spend this money in a way that allows them to keep that investment after the money is spent. Some people wanted to see some big purchases upfront, but from what I’ve seen, many school districts have been very smart about making sure that that money is spent on these kids, and not as rash as they stick with a bill back after she’s gone.”

What to do when money runs out is a concern for teachers and administrators, Owens said.

Analysts say another achievement of America’s bailout plan, the 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credits, has resulted in a significant reduction in child poverty nationwide by repaying parents up to $300 per child per month, but the relief ended last year when attempts to renew them ended in Congress .

“It’s hard to see what kind of change can happen when we actually invest in these kids and then say, ‘okay, time’s up,'” Owens said.

But Owens said he hopes government investment could offset revenue once federal money runs out.

“We don’t have to have this tax cliff for schools that are spending this money to help these kids,” he said. “The state could support the schools in further development. We’ve got this nice long runway to figure out what’s working and how the state can continue that investment. We’ve got plenty of money left in the governor’s ARP contingency fund. We have plenty of income to raise. If we have the political will, we can turn this into lasting things for Georgians.”

This story originally appeared in the Georgia Recorder.

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