U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D, Hawaii), along with her colleague U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D, N.J.) announced their plan Friday to introduce the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act (LOAA), which would improve distance and blended learning in our public schools during the coronavirus pandemic. LOAA would combat instructional loss, particularly for at-risk and marginalized students, by providing support for professional development and training programs for teachers, tutoring and academic services, research and best practices, and other initiatives to enhance equity and access for all students.
Specifically, the bill would provide funding to address instructional loss for at-risk and marginalized students, including low-income students, minority students, children with disabilities, English learners, migratory students, homeless children and youth, and children or youth in foster care.
“Over the past few months, I’ve heard from students, parents, and educators across Hawaii who are doing their best to adjust to distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. My own education was fundamental to my success, and this generation of students deserves a quality education—regardless of the challenges the pandemic poses. LOAA provides vital resources so educators can support their students, particularly those who are most at risk for instructional loss. I will continue to advocate for robust funding that supports healthy and safe learning environments for students in Hawaii and across the country,” Hirono said.
“Moving to a virtual learning environment to protect the health and safety of our students, teachers, and support staff has presented new challenges for teachers, students, and their families,” said Booker. “Our bill will invest funds in states and communities to ensure that our students, especially the most vulnerable, are getting the attention they need and our teachers are getting the support they deserve.”
The legislation provides funding for current professional development and training programs, and new grant funding for professional development, training resources, and student support services, innovation programs, and learning hubs to support at-risk and Native students. LOAA also requires the U.S. Department of Education, through the Institute of Education Sciences, to conduct research and identify and disseminate best practices for addressing instructional loss due to COVID-19—especially for at-risk and marginalized students.
LOAA receives broad support from national and local organizations, including HSTA
Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said, “Our teachers are amazing, but even amazing teachers need support with new online platforms, the various technologies needed, and ways in which to convert in-person instruction to an online form, while ensuring it is impactful and engaging for students at the same time.”
“This bill would allow funding for this type of professional development for our teachers who want it. This bill would also provide more funds for the technology needed, such as more hotspots and laptops, so all our students, regardless of their zip code, have access to online learning during this pandemic,” Rosenlee added.
“Parents for Public Schools of Hawaii supports the Learning Opportunities and Achievement Act (LOAA), which will provide much-needed funding to support public education during the pandemic,” said Dr. Lois A. Yamauchi, president of Parents for Public Schools of Hawaii. “It is clear that COVID-19 has increased the educational inequities in our communities. LOAA will provide funding to promote educational innovations that address the new limitations of schooling and support the learning and educational engagement of our most vulnerable students.”
David Miyashiro, founding executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN, called the measure “an important bill that helps to address the gaping digital divide that has been exposed by the COVID-19 health crisis. This digital divide is directly contributing to educational inequity, and McKinsey & Company estimates COVID-19-related learning losses will directly result in the average K-12 student in the United States losing $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings, which translates into an estimated impact of $110 billion annual earnings.”
“Coronavirus-related school closures last spring caused students across the country to experience significant instructional loss. Students continue to face a range of challenging circumstances early this school year, but through it all, teachers remain determined to be effective for their students,” said Peggy Brookins, NBCT, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “Whether they are just beginning their career or are accomplished National Board Certified Teachers, teachers everywhere are craving professional development so they can meet their students’ evolving needs.”
JoAnn Bartoletti, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said, “Education can succeed only if we invest in the people who do the educating, especially under pandemic conditions that heighten student needs and press the limits of teachers’ ability to deliver virtual and hybrid instruction.”
“The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act recognizes that reality and directs much-needed funding to the ongoing skills development of teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, and other educators on whom we rely for nothing less than building the future we all share. NASSP is proud to pledge its support for this bill, and we thank Senator Hirono for introducing it,” Bartoletti said.
Read more about the Senate distance learning proposal
Hirono has continued to support additional funding for K-12 schools dealing with COVID-19. Earlier this year, in June, she signed a letter with 40 colleagues requesting an additional $175 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF), through which K-12 schools in Hawaii received $43.3 million earlier this year. More recently, she cosponsored the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA), which would provide the same amount for ESSERF, and $33 billion for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF). Earlier this year, Hawaii received $9.9 million through GEERF.
In July, Hirono signed a letter with 29 colleagues encouraging Congressional leadership to provide federal assistance for K-12 schools that gives state and local officials the resources they need to ensure healthy, safe, and effective learning environments—whether through in-person, distance, or blended learning models. LOAA would provide additional resources to support these learning environments.
Other education leaders and advocates across the country endorse the proposal
“The National Association of Elementary School Principals applauds the introduction of the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act. When given the right training and support, principals can have an enormous impact on student achievement. Unfortunately, too many of our nation’s principals do not have access to high-quality professional learning opportunities,” said Dr. L. Earl Franks, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. “To be an effective instructional leader and support effective teaching, principals need sustained, job-embedded professional learning to continuously improve. The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act would ensure more principals can access these opportunities, helping them to hone their craft and strengthen teaching and learning in their school. We appreciate Senator Hirono for introducing this critical legislation to support the principal profession and we look forward to helping move it forward.”
“The American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) applauds Senator Hirono’s introduction of the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act and plans to work hard to help it become law. The forced pivot to online learning last spring demonstrated clearly the urgent need to ensure that all educators, including principals, vice principals and school leaders, become proficient at using and educating through technology,” said Ernest A. Logan, president of the American Federation of School Administrators. “Senator Hirono’s bill invests deeply in this area and, just as importantly, would mandate that states reserve at least 10% of the $2.25 billion appropriated to provide professional learning opportunities in online education geared specifically to school leaders. This is a bold bill that we embrace strongly.”
“As the leading non-profit organization in technology professional development, the International Society for Technology in Education understood well before the COVID-19 pandemic how critical it is that educators be able to equitably provide engaging and substantive instruction online,” said Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. “Now, the whole country knows all too well that the ability to teach online is a core competency that all teachers must possess. We thank Senator Hirono for introducing legislation that recognizes the importance of technology professional development and provides significant funding for it. ISTE enthusiastically endorses this bill and looks forward to working with Senator Hirono to ensure it is enacted.”
“The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act fills a void that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Lynn M. Gangone, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “It provides essential resources for educators – in higher education and K-12 – to work together to address the significant learning loss that we are witnessing, particularly among our nation’s most at-risk K-12 students. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education supports this bill and looks forward to its enactment.”
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has upended education for all, the impact of instructional loss will be felt greatest by certain groups of students, including students with disabilities. These students cannot afford to fall further behind,” said Lindsay Jones, president and CEO of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. “The pandemic offers an opportunity to support educators and rethink instruction to accelerate learning. The Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act is a critical step toward ensuring teachers have the resources and skills needed to instruct students virtually and close persistent gaps in our education system.”
“Watching educators rise to the challenges of teaching during the pandemic has been nothing short of inspirational. Yet, we know this crisis is impacting specific populations, including students with disabilities, at a disproportionately high rate,” said Dr. Jennifer Lesh, president of the Council for Exceptional Children. “This legislation will provide targeted resources to support school personnel in hard-hit areas as they continue to work hard every day to address the needs of their students during this pandemic and beyond. I applaud Senator Hirono for addressing learning loss through this important legislation.”
“Learning loss as a result of COVID-19 is tremendously challenging for students with disabilities and special educators,” said Mary Brownell, President of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children. “The infusion of resources offered by this legislation will make a critical difference in our nation’s ability to deploy research-based strategies to address this great need. Partnerships between higher education and K-12 envisioned by this bill will offer powerful interventions and much-needed support to students and their families.”
“As special educators, we know that students with disabilities are facing significant learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lisa Monda-Amaya, President of the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education. “The Higher Education Consortium for Special Education is pleased to support this bill. It will provide critical resources to special educators in both higher education and K-12, to develop and deploy strategies to intervene for our highest-need students.”
"Special educators are keenly aware of toll the serious impact school closures and remote learning have had on some children with disabilities,” said Phyllis Wolfram, Executive Director of the Council of Administrators of Special Education. “Providing additional resources for professional development on technology use, personalizing instruction, and best practices for distance learning is critical to address instructional loss for students and especially those most at risk."
“During an unprecedented crisis, this legislation provides much-needed resources to help educators build the skills they need to support students and families, spurring innovation to improve hybrid and virtual learning,” said Jean Desravines, chief executive officer of New Leaders. “We applaud Senator Hirono for acknowledging the critical role school principals play in ensuring every student can thrive during this uncertain time. We also commend the Senator for prioritizing funding for vulnerable children and communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to chip away at the legacy of harmful, discriminatory policies that continues to affect marginalized students today
“Public Advocacy for Kids is proud to support the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act introduced by Senator Hirono. The bill foreshadows a critical need during this time of disrupted learning, school closures, lack of broadband connectivity, and continually changing learning environments, to resource and fund evidenced-based assessments that measure learning loss,” said Arnold F. Fege, president of Public Advocacy for Kids. “In this well thought out proposal, Senator Hirono adeptly connects important instructional elements assuring that teachers have the tools to measure learning loss, especially related to our marginalized students, provide the professional development to mitigate the losses and to close the equity gap that the pandemic has exposed—all ready to hit the ground running when it is safe for students to go back to full-time in-person schooling.”
“JNCL-NCLIS represents a network of over 300,000 language educators and professionals who have been working tirelessly with students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. On behalf of our members, we would like to express our gratitude to Senator Hirono for her continued leadership demonstrated in the filing of her original bill, the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act (LOAA)” said Alissa Rutkowski, policy manager of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies. “This bill provides a crucial initial step in ensuring equitable and quality educational opportunities for students facing a higher risk of instructional loss, including and especially the 5 million students who speak a language other than English and the educators and professionals who serve them. JNCL-NCLIS is proud to endorse LOAA and stands ready to provide any additional support.”
Endorsing organizations include the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), CEC Teacher Education Division, Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators (HASSA), Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), HawaiiKidsCAN, Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Joint National Committee for Languages-National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), National Education Association (NEA), New Leaders, Parents for Public Schools of Hawaii (PPSH), Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK), and Rural School and Community Trust (RSCT).