HARTFORD, CT (STL.News) Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he is proposing to dedicate up to $11 million in federal funding Connecticut has received for COVID-19 recovery efforts toward the expansion of programs that connect students to high-quality summer enrichment and recreational opportunities, with an emphasis on communities and children who were most impacted by the pandemic.
“After a challenging school year for so many students, our goal with this funding is for all kids to be able to access the terrific summer camps, child care centers, and other summer programs that our state has to offer,” Governor Lamont said. “By expanding access and lowering barriers that have precluded students from prior participation, we can help ensure that students have a fun and educational summer with their peers and are set up for success in the fall. I want to especially thank our own Senator Chris Murphy, whose fervent advocacy of summer enrichment funding has made this all possible.”
The funding will come from the portion of the American Rescue Plan Act funding allocated to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE). Through a partnership between Governor Lamont’s Office, CSDE, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, Regional Educational Service Centers (RESC), and members of the AccelerateCT Education Taskforce, the funding will be used through a two-pronged approach – expansion grants and innovation grants – to deliver these high-quality and financially accessible summer enrichment opportunities for children of all ages.
A competitive grant application will be launched to award expansion grants and innovation grants to eligible organizations to provide students and families with engaging summer enrichment and learning experiences. Grant application materials were created in collaboration with dozens of key stakeholders across the state – including leaders of summer programs – and will enable the state to identify and support high-quality programs that are able to expand capacity for summer 2021.
Expansion grants will be awarded to entities to expand existing enrichment opportunities and increase access for children who might otherwise not have access to summer camp or programming. These grants are geared towards local organizations. Applicants may apply for up to $25,000 to either serve more children, subsidize enrollment costs, or both. Additionally, priority will be given to providers that can quickly scale programming to serve more students and/or make their programming more financially accessible to students from low-income communities. CSDE expects approximately 20,000 additional students to benefit from this grant program. The grant process will prioritize applications that have additional matches through the American Rescue Plan Act funding provided to local school districts and municipalities. By leveraging this match, the state could triple the number of students served.
Innovation grants will be awarded to entities to provide children with access to bold and innovative summer programming. These grants are geared towards entities that can implement programs at scale either regionally or statewide. Applicants may apply for up to $250,000 to students through existing programming or through the creation of new programming. CSDE expects approximately 5,000 additional students to benefit from this grant program.
Earlier this spring, CSDE issued a survey to state education partners that revealed more than 90 percent of respondents agreed this funding should prioritize enrichment opportunities that will help children get caught up so that they can thrive in the 2021-22 school year. In March, Governor Lamont announced that summer camps and festivals could begin the planning stages to open for the upcoming season. Since then, enrollment for many camps has begun. Some camps have already reported that they are fully booked for the summer, suggesting that there is room for programs that receive expansion grants to serve more students.
The grant applications and additional information on both programs will be released by CSDE in the coming days.
“With jobs returning and workers coming back into an office setting, this summer is a really important time to make sure that parents have a safe place to send their kids,” Senator Chris Murphy said. “This funding is going to allow for more kids in Connecticut, especially low-income kids, to be able to have access to quality summer programs. What you’re going to see over the course of the next few weeks is a lot of states following Connecticut’s lead and planning for these federal dollars to be spent in a thoughtful way to expand the number of kids who have access to great summer programming.”
“Connecticut is once again ahead of the curve in not only expanding horizons for children but doing it in a fun and engaging way,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said. “These summer camps and programs are going to involve students, their parents, and whole families that strengthen the bonds that are so important to students doing productive learning. I want to pay tribute to the entire delegation that united behind this program.”
“Children across the country have missed out on critical experiences that help with their social and emotional development,” Congressman John Larson said. “Online learning and the cancellation of summer camps, soccer practices, band recitals and more have been put on hold leaving many parents wondering how they’ll make up learning and developmental loss. That’s why we fought for this critical funding from the American Rescue Plan. This $11 million for summer enrichment programs in Connecticut will help students across the state recover from this pandemic. This funding would not have been possible without Senator Murphy, who has been a fierce advocate in getting ahead of this crisis and fought tirelessly to ensure federal funds were provided to make summer programming available for our most vulnerable children. I thank Governor Lamont for establishing this program here in Connecticut.”
“The pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for teachers, students, and families in the past year that has led to gaps in student growth and achievement,” Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said. “By creating and investing in accessible summer enrichment programs, we are able to build innovative opportunities, connections, and better outcomes for students with their social-emotional needs in mind. We cannot build back better without bold solutions and substantial investments. I applaud Governor Lamont for working quickly to ensure this federal funding reaches our communities.”
“These grants will allow us to innovate, create, and collaborate to provide our students with quality, evidence-based programming that will enhance learning and enrichment opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting,” Connecticut Acting Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker said. “Leveraging the assets that already exist throughout Connecticut, we can provide engaging, hands-on, and transformative experiences to help children build connections with their peers, access services to address their social-emotional and mental health needs, and continue learning every day, everywhere to prepare for a successful transition this fall.”
“Providing summer enrichment and learning opportunities for children throughout the state of Connecticut is a critical piece to healthy social and emotional development,” Connecticut Commissioner of Early Childhood Beth Bye said. “Children have missed out of so many of these experiences during the pandemic, and these federal funds are coming just at the right time as children enter the summer months with rich learning resources.”
“The Connecticut After School Network is very excited by the release of these new funding opportunities, because it means that many more children and youth will be able to participate in summer camps and enrichment programs,” Michelle Doucette Cunningham, executive director of the Connecticut After School Network, said. “The research shows that high-quality summer programs broaden kids’ horizons, fosters cooperative learning, and promotes healthy habits, especially this summer we need to focus on helping kids reconnect, and re-engage, as we begin to recover from the past year. I know that Connecticut’s many nonprofit community-based agencies that will be able to reach even more children this year will join me in thanking Governor Lamont and our Congressional delegation for making these new grants possible.”
“Our state Regional Education Service Centers are uniquely organized and have the flexibility to assist the Connecticut State Department of Education with this important work,” Tracey Lay, chief talent and development officer for EdAdvance and chair of the board of directors for the National AfterSchool Association said. “In addition to our experience and professional capacity, we have the connections to our schools and communities to help support these programs to expand and enhance the summer opportunities for our state’s children and families. In my various roles on the local, regional, state and national level, in the after school and summer enrichment fields for over 34 years, I’ve seen what the recent research shows – that these programs help working families, keep our children safe, and enhance their academics. High-quality summer programs can also engage and prepare our children to be ready for school. In these programs, children are learning in fun and engaging ways, or as I like to call it, ‘stealth’ learning. And summer programs provide an ideal setting for social emotional learning activities for our children, which is needed now more than ever.”