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Education Organizations Call for Focus on Most Vulnerable Students in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

Groups Release Recommendations for How States and Districts Can Prioritize Students Hit Hardest by Education Disruptions

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2020

Contact: Dorie Turner Nolt, 404.861.1127,

Washington, D.C.— More than a dozen education and civil rights organizations are calling for education leaders across the country to prioritize the most vulnerable students as states and districts make tough budget decisions for how to spend dwindling state and local resources and limited federal recovery dollars in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organizations released a set of recommendations in six key areas to support states and districts in crafting an equity-focused response to addressing COVID-19 — both in the near term as they plan for the 2020-21 school year and in the recovery to follow: (1) ensuring equity in fiscal policies; (2) meeting students’ basic needs; (3) expanding and improving remote learning; (4) easing the high school-to-college transition; (5) extending learning time; and (6) determining students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.

Given the tremendous challenges facing our most vulnerable students and the dismal economic outlook for states and districts, the organizations also urged Congress to provide substantial further relief for states and local communities, with a priority for K–12 education, in a future coronavirus aid package.

The participating groups include the Alliance for Excellent Education, Center for American Progress, Collaborative for Student Success, Council for Exceptional Children, Education Reform Now, Educators for Excellence, Migration Policy Institute, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, National Urban League, Stand for Children, Teach Plus, The Education Trust, and UnidosUS.

Below are quotes from leaders of some of these organizations.

“As schools resume face-to-face learning in coming months, we must do everything possible to ensure our most underserved students—who have been hit first and hardest by the disruptions to the school year—receive the support and focus they need to recover academically, socially, and emotionally. Particularly as state and local budgets get tight and schools make tough decisions, we must prioritize these vulnerable students from the beginning, not try to include them as an afterthought.”—Deborah Delisle, president and CEO of the Alliance for Excellent Education

“As we consider reopening our schools, we must address learning loss—but do so equitably. Not every student will have been impacted the same way through extended school closures. If we don’t meet kids where they are, and help them through extended learning programs and supports, we risk worsening achievement gaps that existed long before the pandemic.”—Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success

“As we begin to look toward the next school year, it is critically important that we ensure any reopening measures take into account the needs of all students. I have been heartened by the creativity and energy our educators have put into the pivot to virtual learning, and we must keep support for our educators front and center so they can have the tools to serve all students this fall.”—Dr. Jennifer Lesh, president of the Council for Exceptional Children

“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted and exacerbated deep inequities in our educational system that have plagued children of color and those from low-income families for generations. It has also highlighted the low expectations and antiquated nature of our education system for all students, regardless of background. This, in turn, necessitates the enactment of new policies, from pre-K to K–12 and through college that address the current public health, economic, and educational crisis and take what we’ve learned from it—and from past education and reform efforts—and adapt those lessons to the post–COVID-19 world. This guide will help states, school districts, and other education stakeholders realize those important goals.”—Charles Barone, chief policy officer at Education Reform Now

“As state and district leaders respond to this crisis and begin planning for next school year, it is critical that they keep equity at the center of every decision they make. That includes planning for virtual learning, making hard choices about budgets, caring for students’ social-emotional health, and so much more.”—Evan Stone, co-CEO of Educators for Excellence

“The COVID-19 crisis will have a lasting impact, and the most vulnerable communities, including students with disabilities, will be hit the hardest. While many schools and districts are working earnestly to support students with disabilities and other marginalized communities, decisionmakers must take a more targeted approach to achieving equity. NCLD is proud to put forward recommendations that will guide policymakers and give our most vulnerable students every opportunity to overcome the challenges before them and receive the education they deserve.”—Lindsay E. Jones, president and CEO of the National Center for Learning Disabilities

“As schools across the country grapple with the complex challenges brought on by COVID-19, it is critical to craft solutions that are centered on equity. We are proud to support these common-sense, equity-focused recommendations and we hope that states and districts take them to heart.”—Wendy Tucker, senior director of policy at the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools

“It is absolutely vital that school districts and states are targeting federal funds to support the most vulnerable students. Children who have been historically underserved are bearing the brunt of the burden from school closures. Focusing CARES Act and any future coronavirus relief funding from the federal government on at-risk students—including students of color and students who are low income—will help ensure that the opportunity gap is not widened further due to this public health crisis.”—Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League

“If this pandemic has taught us one valuable thing about our education system, it is that we cannot just return to normal. Normal did not—and does not—work for our nation’s students from low-income backgrounds and students of color who experience inequities embedded in classrooms and school buildings so deeply that it took a world-wide pandemic to fully unmask them and for state and national leaders to call them out by name. We’ve known that these inequities have existed, but our nation and its leaders have not yet taken the steps needed to eliminate them. This is our moment to do that.”—John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of students and families across the country, but it is among our most vulnerable students, including our nation’s 5 million English learners and low-income students, where the educational impact and barriers to learning have been far more acute. It is critical, then, that states and districts take steps that safeguard the academic success of all students during this time. These recommendations are a good foundation for states to build on and put students on a path to success in the upcoming school year.”—Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS

Media contacts:
Alliance for Excellent Education: Dorie Turner Nolt,
Center for American Progress: Colin Seeberger,
Collaborative for Student Success: Erika Ross,
Council for Exceptional Children: Chad Rummel,
Education Reform Now: Victoria Fosdal,
Educators for Excellence: Ciara Mentzer
Migration Policy Institute: Michelle Mittelstadt,
National Center for Learning Disabilities: Meghan Whittaker,
National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools: Rachel Hastings,
National Urban League: Teresa Candori,
Stand for Children: Jessica Mayorga,
Teach Plus: Anya Grottel-Brown,
The Education Trust: Nicolle Grayson,
UnidosUS: Gabriela Gomez,



The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC-based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization committed to improving educational outcomes — and lives — of students, with a focus on those in middle and high school. We embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion and specifically advocate on behalf of all students who are historically underserved or marginalized.