Sean is Chief Strategy Officer at Education Forward DC.
A partnership between Education Forward DC, the DC Public Education Fund, and Greater Washington Community Foundation launched the DC Education Equity Fund in March to ensure that students had the resources to continue to learn from home and to support Mayor Bowser in her efforts to ensure equity and excellence for all students, even — and especially — during this pandemic.
Here’s what the DC Education Equity Fund has accomplished to date, based on a new survey of schools and how they used their funds.
More than $2.2 million raised
Thanks to the generosity of donors, both large and small, the DC Education Equity Fund raised $2,201,236 in a few short months to address the COVID-19 crisis.
Helping thousands of DC students
Nearly 95 percent of Local Education Agencies (LEA’s) received funding, with grants split proportionally between DC Public Schools (DCPS) and DC public charter schools. Support for public charter schools was based on enrollment of students who are at-risk of academic failure (designated as students who are in foster care, experience homelessness, receive food support via SNAP and TANF, or — for high school students — who are overage and undercredited) and adult students.
LEA’s indicated they supported more than 4,000 students with internet access and more than 3,000 students with personal devices from funding through the Education Equity Fund.
At Achievement Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in Ward 8, Founder and CEO Shantelle Wright used the nearly $12,000 grant to buy devices for 125 students, hotspots for 120 students, and covered basic needs for 35 students and families.
“We distributed wellness packages with basic toiletries like soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and deodorant; and we purchased grocery store gift cards for each family who received a wellness package,” said Wright. “We also used funds to support our Feed Our People program, where we provide hot meals to families in need.”
In all, thousands of DC students directly received critical support during the first few months of this pandemic through the Fund, many receiving multiple forms of support.
Devices, hotspots, and groceries
Nearly half of the funding was used to provide devices, and more than 40 percent of funding was used to provide internet access to households. The remaining support was used to cover basic needs, including groceries for families, toiletries, and transportation needs.
The DC Public Education Fund, which supplied critical resources for students who attend DCPS, used support in two major areas: technology (including hotspots and laptops) and providing basic needs for children and families who experience homelessness. At Patterson Elementary School in Ward 8 (where 14 percent of students are identified as experiencing homelessness), Principal Thomas used the funding to cover basic needs:
“The gift cards were extremely impactful for our families in need,” said Thomas. “Our social workers and a few teachers collaborated in order to reach families and let them know about the gift cards. Many families are experiencing financial hardship and truly appreciated this financial assistance. They were able to buy food/groceries, toiletries, and one parent expressed that receiving the gift card was a pleasant surprise! We are beyond thankful.”
There are many challenges still ahead from making distance learning work again for students, to laying the foundation to support every student through this crisis.
The DC Education Equity Fund is focused on supporting the most vulnerable students and families at DC’s public schools, as well as addressing systemic barriers to equity in learning, including sustained, high-quality internet access for all students.
To learn more about the DC Education Equity Fund or to donate, visit www.dcedequity.org.