Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego uses ARPA Funds for Mobile Library for Underserved Communities

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego unveiled the “Bookmobile” funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. It is a mobile library that aims to bring books and library services to underserved communities. The Bookmobile has an accessible lift for ADA access, Wi-Fi, and over 2,500 items. It is not limited to routine stops but will appear at city and neighborhood events, senior centers, and schools.  As Gallego said, “Our libraries provide crucial support and assistance that improves the quality of life in Phoenix, and our brand-new Bookmobile is another great tool we’ll use to meet and serve residents where they are.”

ARPA Case Study: Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones Creates Opportunities for Early Childhood Education

In an effort to address the urgent need for affordable childcare options, Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones established ambitious goals to ensure children enter school ready to learn and be successful. As part of the city’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, he prioritized initiatives to increase the availability of high quality early education, particularly for low-income children. To fulfill this strategy, the city is partnering with the Peake Childhood Center and Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC) to develop and operate a fully accredited and licensed early childhood center.

The new spots made available by the center will help alleviate the current crisis in childcare availability, underscored by Peake’s current waitlist of more than 400 children, by doubling its capacity to serve 200 children from infant to four years old with tuition determined on a sliding scale based on a family’s ability to pay.

The center is part of a mixed-use project that includes housing, commercial space, and an on-site early childhood
educator program and classroom space. The cost of the project will be covered almost exclusively by the city’s American
Rescue Plan Act funds.

Additionally, VPCC will train the next generation of childcare professionals through its onsite credentialing program, allowing VPCC students to train by working directly with children.

The Peake Early Childhood Center will ensure that families who struggle financially have access to a center that addresses early education for their children and supports the broader needs of individual families and the city. In addition to early education’s many immediate benefits to parents and long-term impacts on kids, research shows that a lack of childcare costs businesses $4.4 billion annually because parents/guardians must be absent from work to take care of their children.

The new facility is expected to open in the fall of 2024 and, as a result of the initial kickstart by ARPA, has leveraged additional private investments.

ARPA Case Study: New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell Expands Access to Early Childhood Education

In late 2023, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, alongside city and state officials, celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for the new NorthStar Early Learning Academy, scheduled to open in 2025, to provide more affordable and accessible early education services to over 130 children.

“The NorthStar’s new early childhood education center will offer lasting impacts on children and parents alike,” said Mitchell. “Not only will better access to childcare keep more parents in the workplace, but expanded early education programming will help more children be better prepared to start kindergarten.”

Originally conceived as a need in 2017, but unable to move forward without additional financial assistance, Mitchell infused the NorthStar project with $2.5 in ARPA funds to accelerate the projects and leverage additional funding from a mix of private and public entities. When completed, the new facility will also have a commercial kitchen to promote healthy food habits, and will be used as a community gathering place for meetings and other events on evenings and weekends.

Mitchell has made a concerted effort to invest in families and ensure they are able to participate in a local economy. In addition to other investments of ARPA funds to grow small businesses, this investment in early childhood education will help parents participate in the workforce and will benefit the long-term economic well-being, and social health of the community.

Georgia Educational Opportunity Act

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Georgia Representative Phil Olaleye introduced HB 668 which aims to update the state’s 30-year-old Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula. The bill introduces an “opportunity weight” to allocate additional resources for students in poverty. Georgia is only one of six states that does not allocate specific state funds to help educate students living in poverty. This ensures schools can meet diverse educational needs, from rural transportation to mental health support and urban meal programs. The bill strives to eliminate disparities and enhance education statewide.

 

Impact

The Georgia Educational Opportunity Act would provide a much needed update to the state’s funding formula and provide additional funding to serve economically disadvantaged students. This would ensure that all students entering a public school in Georgia would receive the resources needed for success, regardless of their zip code and economic situation. For example, schools in rural Georgia might use the funds to transport students to dual enrollment programs or provide Wi-Fi hotspots. Suburban schools might use the funds to enhance mental health counseling and increase after-school tutoring. While urban districts might use the funds to pay for school meal programs and provide critical wraparound services.

Free School Meals for Eligible Kids

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Little Rock State Senator Clarke Tucker’s bill to offer free school meals for low-income students was signed into law. The USDA provides income eligibility guidelines for public school students throughout the United States to qualify for either free or reduced-price school meals. Tucker’s Act 656 eliminates the cost of all school meals for students who come from families that qualify for reduced-priced meals. This will have a huge impact on families who rely on school meals for their kids to eat and who need their dollars to stretch a little further.

The law creates a tiered system of funding. The Arkansas Department of Education will utilize any available federal funds to pay for these meals, and then the state will cover any remaining costs (including dedicated funding from medical marijuana tax revenue).

Impact:

Students who qualify for reduced-priced meals come from families with limited means and are still required to make some payment to receive their school meals. The price of those families’ school meals, even when reduced, can add up and even create debt. As part of the legislation, the state auditing entity will audit the Arkansas Department of Education Child Nutrition Unit and provide a report to the Senate and House Committees on Education every year to monitor the program, ensure that every eligible child in Arkansas is receiving these meals, and help the legislature budget appropriately.

Richmond Pathways Program

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney launched the Richmond Pathways Program pilot program that will cover the tuition of any Richmond Public School graduate to attend the local community college. With an initial investment of $1.7 million from the City of Richmond, The award will also be paired with a monthly cash allowance, mentorship, and additional resources to open more pathways for students to access postsecondary institutions and achieve success. Students would be able to pursue instruction in career-specific or skilled-trades credentials in addition to earning credits to transfer to a four-year college.

 

Impact

Currently a pilot program, the city is working to achieve a fundraising goal of $4 million through donations and contributions before launching.

Pathways in Technology: Early College High School Program

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff secured funds in the 2024/2025 biennial state budget to create a pilot program within a high school in two districts to expand access to college courses and technology internships by encouraging schools to partner with their local community college and a state-located business. This program is specifically targeted to the most needy districts in the state. These students will take a course load that allows them to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Furthermore, the internships they participate in allow them to gain invaluable experience and prepare them for the workforce, should they choose to enter it immediately or after completing a baccalaureate degree. In order to enable the most needy districts to apply to participate, the two costs for administering the program are paid for by the state.

 

Impact:

Senator Duff sees the program as a way to bring together local community college leadership and large local businesses in the technology field in support of students.

 

Creating a Diverse STEM Workforce by Leveraging Federal CHIPS Funding

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

To directly address the gender, social, and racial gaps in STEM education and careers, Oregon Representative Janelle Bynum advocated for two new grant programs focused on leveraging federal CHIPS funding to build a diverse workforce for the future. The first grant ($1.2 million) went to Portland non-profit Self Enhancement Inc. to build a pipeline of diverse students who will be ready to gain employment in Oregon’s expanding semiconductor industry. The second grant ($2 million) went to Building Blocks 2 Success, which will create a semiconductor workforce pipeline by offering summer programming and college preparation for students intending to major in STEM fields at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

These grants, in addition to over $200 million from the Oregon CHIPS act, go above and beyond what other states are doing and will work to ensure that the lucrative semiconductor careers of the future are more equitably distributed and incorporate individuals who are often left out of economic development. Especially considering the Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action, investing in students who will attend HBCUs is more important than ever to address the STEM education and career gap.

Impact

In the short term, Oregon will evaluate the success of these investments by seeing how much federal CHIPS funding comes to our state. This effort will help create a state economy hospitable for future generations to succeed and will help new cohorts of STEM professionals attain the economic and social securities that will bring diverse families and communities to new levels of prosperity and opportunity.

 

Comprehensive Reporting of Education Expenditures by School Districts

2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Connecticut Senate Democratic Majority Leader Bob Duff championed a bill that requires the State Department of Education to compile and publish all education related expenditures by school districts. The data will be formatted and publicly published to allow the comparison of the data across all districts. This information will allow parents and interested parties to see where their district is concentrating their resources and help parents and taxpayers in lower performing districts advocate for change.

Impact:   

The bill was signed into law in June 2023 and Senator Duff sees the ultimate goal of the effort to help poor performing districts raise their scores and ensure all students have access to programs that work for their educational needs.

Peake Early Childhood Center / Virginia Peninsula Community College Center of Excellence

 2023 Ideas Challenge Entry

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones led the Council adoption of the city’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan with the objective of ensuring that children enter school ready to learn and be successful. A strategy to support this objective is to increase the availability of and strengthen early education in pre-kindergarten programs, particularly for low-income children. To fulfill this strategy, the city is partnering with the Peake Childhood Center to develop and operate a fully accredited and licensed early childhood center. The joint facility in partnership with PEAKE and Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC), will provide a sliding scale tuition for up to 200 youth, from infant to 4 years old. Additionally, VPCC will train the next generation of childcare professionals through its onsite training program.

 Newport News also allocated over 20% of its ARPA funding to establish a new Early Childhood Education Center. This center will ensure that pre-kindergarten programs are universally available — particularly for low-income families — increasing options for our working families who need safe places for their children to learn and grow and empowering parents to become actively involved in their child’s learning and also remain in the workforce.

 

Impact:

The Peake Early Childhood Center will ensure that families, who struggle financially, have access to a center that addresses the early educational needs of their children and supports the needs of the family. Data reveals how important high-quality and affordable early learning and childcare are for the economy. The availability of early education programs attracts home buyers and increases property values by $13 dollars for every dollar invested. Also, a lack of childcare costs businesses $4.4 billion annually because parents/guardians must be absent from work to take care of their children.