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DeVos To Use Coronavirus Relief Funds For Home Schooling 'Microgrants'

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This week, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that more than $300 million from the first coronavirus rescue package will go to two education grant competitions for K-12 and higher ed.

States will be able to apply for a piece of the $180 million allotted to the "Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant" and $127.5 million allotted to the "Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant."

The money is 1% of the more than $30 billion set aside for education in the CARES Act. Those billions are intended to help states with the highest coronavirus burden.

States can access the money by creating proposals to fund virtual or work-based learning programs. The grant categories include two of DeVos' pre-existing pet policy ideas: "microgrants" that go directly to home-schooling families, and microcredentials that offer a shorter path to workforce preparation.

On the higher ed side, the secretary has long pushed for workforce-oriented education and shorter paths to a degree. She's been praised for this stance by online and for-profit colleges, while traditional institutions have been less sanguine.

Similarly, the secretary is a longtime advocate of alternatives to public schools, including home schooling. She has praised programs like Florida's Gardiner Scholarship, which provides up to $10,000 to the families of children with special needs to support home schooling. Last fall, DeVos proposeda $5 billion "Education Freedom Scholarship" program, which would have used federal tax credits to support, essentially, a voucher program that families could use both for private schools and home schooling.

While this week's announcement is significant for the policy directions it signals, it's a comparatively small amount of money. Education groups have asked the federal government for $200 billion (with a B) more in funds to maintain basic services.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.
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