South Dakota to receive almost $5,000,000 for safer and healthier learning environments

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 12:56 PM MDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The U.S. Department of Education awarded states nearly $1 billion through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to help schools provide students with safe and supportive learning environments that are critical for their success.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Education, through the BSCA and under the leadership of President Biden, Congress provided $1 billion in funding to state educational agencies (SEAs). South Dakota will receive $4,833,025. Secretary Cardona informed chief state school officers of their allocations under the BSCA Stronger Connections grant program. SEAs must award these funds competitively to high-need local educational agencies (LEAs), as determined by the state, to fund activities allowable under section 4108 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

“We have years of evidence that demonstrate the value of building safe and supportive schools. These efforts improve academic achievement, promote emotional well-being, reduce disciplinary actions, and increase positive behaviors,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Safe and supportive schools help our children and youth overcome trauma and provide a strong foundation of emotional and physical safety. These grants will provide real benefits to real students in real schools.”

Safe and supportive schools are proven by decades of rigorous research to be most effective in supporting academic success and meeting students’ social, emotional, physical, and mental health needs. These funds can also be used to support school and community partnerships that pursue multifaceted solutions to more effectively prevent and respond to acts of bullying, violence, and hate that impact members of our school communities at both individual and systemic levels.

Grants should be built around three principles

Secretary Cardona sent chief state school officers a Dear Colleague Letter outlining three principles that SEAs are strongly encouraged to consider when designing a competitive grant competition and providing LEAs with direction for how they use these funds:

1. Create positive, inclusive, and supportive school environments; and increase access to place-based interventions and services

2. Engaging students, families, educators, staff, and community organizations in the selection and implementation of strategies and interventions to create safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environments

3. Designing and implementing policies and practices that are responsive to underserved students, protect student rights, and demonstrate respect for student dignity and potential. These policies are consistent with the Administration’s previous position on these issues.

An example of an effective way to use the funds is in the case of Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota, where they are spending almost $13 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to support the mental health and wellness of students and staff. This approach includes: hiring 32 additional counselors, social workers, and psychologists; partnering with community organizations to offer mental health support for students; training staff on how to handle trauma, and creating calming spaces for staff and students. More information about the BSCA Stronger Connections grant program can be found here.