Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) to Chief State School Officers detailing information about federal funds and resources available to support Afghan children and their families, who have recently arrived or may be arriving soon to states and school districts across the country. As part of Operation Allies Welcome, a unified approach led by the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate federal government efforts to support vulnerable Afghans, the Department recognizes the immediate and urgent need to provide high-quality, culturally responsive education to Afghan newcomers—inclusive of primary, secondary, and English language learning as well as social-emotional learning.
“All learners have a right to high-quality educational experiences,” said Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten. “Our recent Afghan arrivals and their families have supported our country over the last 20 years, and we will keep our promise to them by providing access to equitable and excellent educational opportunities. The U.S. Department of Education stands ready to support states and local districts as they welcome these important new members of our communities.”
Recognizing that all children in the United States have an equal right to enroll and participate in public elementary and secondary schools, this DCL explains several sources of federal funding available to state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs). Although the letter is specific to Afghan children and their families, the information applies to children and families arriving from other countries as well.
SEAs and LEAs may use funds under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on recently arrived children, including leveraging these funds to develop culturally and linguistically relevant instructional materials as well as materials and assessments in other languages.
In addition, federal education funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) can be used to support recently arrived children, and the DCL includes a short summary of how funds under Title I, Part A; Title III, Part A; Title IV, Part A; and Title IV, Part B of the ESEA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can be used by states, LEAs, and schools to support recently arrived students.
In addition to an overview of federal funds, this letter contains resources that LEAs may use as they fulfill their obligations to not only providing all students with free public education but also determining eligibility for and offering services to support students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities. These resources include tool kits, fact sheets, and other Dear Colleague Letters.
A Keeping the Promise website has been launched, and inquiries into these efforts may be addressed to KeepingthePromise@ed.gov.