CHICAGO – Illinois schools will benefit from a nearly $7 billion infusion as part of the federal American Rescue Plan and other federal aid, a move the Senate’s leaders in education policy praised Thursday.

“The state’s initiatives to support our local school districts as they decide how to use this funding come to us from conversations with educators, students and administrators, and they target several concerns that will make a real difference in the lives of our children and the people who are studying in preparation for their careers,” said Senate Education Committee Vice-Chair Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood). “In particular, early intervention and mental health initiatives have the potential to be an incredibly positive change in the lives of so many families.”

Included in the initiatives the state is suggesting for local districts is a plan for schools to make use of high-impact tutoring, which focuses on providing instruction to students in a way that doesn’t interfere with classroom time and makes use of education majors in college and retired teachers to help provide it. The plan also would allow regional offices of education to work with schools to build up trauma response capacity. School districts will also have access to new tools to help them evaluate their curricula.

“This is a perfect example of leveraging the skills, talents and passions of the wonderful people we have here in Illinois who are ready and willing to step up for our students,” said Senate Education Committee Chair Christopher Belt (D-Centreville). “Our regional offices of education are ideally placed to be strong resources for our local schools, and these services build on that relationship.”

The funding will also present institutions of higher education with options to help students. Part of the funding supports efforts to ensure students who have been accepted to college are able to follow through on attending with confidence by making counseling and advising more widely available and at hours that better suit students’ needs.

“The challenges that students face in attending and persisting in college only start with affordability. We know that for many, it’s the first time they’re adjusting to new academic expectations, perhaps balancing work and family responsibilities, and living independently,” said Senate Higher Education Committee Vice-Chair Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “This funding creates programs that will bridge the gap between high school and college guidance counseling through the first year. Having access to this service can provide reassurance to students and support a path to success.”

Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said the funding expands universities’ options without imposing any additional mandates, giving individual schools the power to figure out what aspects of the new programs are most helpful to their students and faculty.

“This represents a major investment in education in Illinois at all levels, and in a way that avoids any one-size-fits-all measures,” Bennett said. “We need to continue to send the message that Illinois is a state that values and supports higher learning.”

The Illinois P-20 Council has made available its recommendations on how schools can make use of the funding here.