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State Education Agency Considerations for Digital Learning: CARES Act & Beyond

In support of state leadership, SETDA recently published the State Education Agency Considerations for CARES Act Funding as Related to Digital Learning. As state education agencies (SEAs) plan for the 2020-21 school year and work to ensure that high quality learning opportunities are available to all students, each has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership. To support equitable opportunities for all students across a state, SEAs can provide direction and resources to help ensure that all students, regardless of location, race, language, special needs or socio-economic barriers have access to quality digital learning experiences. School districts, especially small districts, do not always have the capacity to develop plans, make purchases or provide professional learning in the same way that large or even medium-size districts can. With guidance, policies and modeling, SEAs can demonstrate a commitment to digital learning both on and off-campus. States can support such processes with some or all of the following:

  • enacting state digital learning plans that include SEA leadership for implementation
  • encouraging district digital learning plans
  • defining personalized learning
  • giving guidance around the implementation of digital instructional materials
  • developing digital learning standards for students

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds and state emergency response funds provide a unique opportunity for SEAs, eligible local educational agencies (LEAs), and schools to develop plans and processes to support remote learning for emergency situations as well as long term digital learning initiatives. With planning, policies and practices, state leaders can demonstrate to districts and schools a commitment to quality digital learning  which also support the personalized needs of all learners. In collaboration with the membership, SETDA developed the State Education Agency Considerations for CARES Act Funding as Related to Digital Learning document to provide a resource for state leaders regarding considerations for expenditures related to digital learning implementation. States may consider statewide contracts or state master contracts to support districts and to provide more cost effective implementation of digital tools resources and/or professional development. In addition, districts should consider multi-district or regional consortia to potentially drive down costs. Some items that may be considered for statewide, state master contracts and/or consortia purchasing may include:

  • digital devices, hotspots and/or monthly access fees
  • learning management systems, content management systems, resource repositories
  • support to implement data standards
  • digital content
  • professional learning opportunities 

Smart spending can support seamless access and reduce overall costs at a time when, more than ever, every dollar counts. In some regions of the country, states are considering multi-state consortia to drive down costs as well. SETDA recommendations are not limited to CARES Act funds, SEAs or the current crisis, and may be considered long term as states and districts move to comprehensive digital learning over time.

For almost twenty years, SETDA has been advocating for quality digital learning experiences for all learners including supporting the concept of statewide and consortia initiatives to provide leadership and help drive down costs. SETDA has developed a variety of resources in support of digital learning and all resources are opening available to the public.  To learn more, access SETDA’s priorities page which includes access to resources related to equity of access, digital content, digital learning, interoperability and professional learning.

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