Once in a Lifetime Funding Should be Spent on Transformative Solutions

By: Manny Cruz

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$3.82 billion. Thanks in part to the federal funds coming to the state through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), this is the amount of money that the Massachusetts legislature is considering to help rebuild much of what was lost and negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given what is at stake, this investment is necessary and it will only result in real transformative change if it is spent on closing the equity gaps that were exacerbated by the pandemic. 

As an organization that is laser focused on Latino education, it is important to take stock of how the pandemic has hurt Latino students, educators and families, and use that to inform what to prioritize when spending ARPA funds. 

Across the board, we saw that thousands of Latino students and families were disconnected from the education system because they lived in neighborhoods that had no access to reliable and affordable broadband or their household wasn’t equipped with tech devices – which became the essentials to navigate online learning and survive during the pandemic. Today, close to 40% of households in the commonwealth still lack access to reliable and high-speed internet. The impact of the digital divide goes beyond education but nonetheless affects a child’s ability to learn.  As our world transitions online, families will continue to rely on tech devices and broadband to receive mental health services; find employment opportunities; schedule vaccine and COVID-testing appointments and other health visits; get information about food assistance programs and so on.  Children struggling with mental health, hunger or income insecurity will have difficulties learning, meaning broadband is key to thriving in our schools not only today but in the future.

Therefore, our state leaders must leverage ARPA funds to make reliable and affordable broadband accessible to all families in the Commonwealth, and equip all households with tech devices. We are pleased to see that the House’s spending package included $50 million to help close the digital divide in Massachusetts, and thrilled that the Senate is allocating even more – up to $75 million – to tackle this issue. 

Our state leaders must also leverage ARPA funds to support educators, especially educators of color across the state. While students of color make up 43% of all students in the commonwealth, educators of color only make up 13% of all teachers in the profession. This disparity in representation has a negative impact on student learning and outcomes because the research shows that students of color perform best when they have educators from similar backgrounds and share their experience. Already before the pandemic many educators of color were leaving the profession within their first five years of teaching because they did not feel supported, and the pandemic exacerbated this dynamic. Many have had to take on multiple roles during the pandemic to keep families engaged, while tending to their own families which has taken a toll on their emotional wellbeing. 

These federal dollars should be used to provide more onramps for more Black, Latinx and API educators to enter the profession, and to support school districts in retaining this talent.

The $10 million investment included in the House proposal is a necessary step to make educator diversity a priority in our state. We would like to see the Senate match these same allocations by passing amendments #435 and #445 filed by Senator Sonia Chang Diaz and Senator Adam Gomez to restore the $10 million investment in educator diversification funding advanced by the House. 

Millions of families and students across the commonwealth are counting on our state leaders to invest in the transformative change and bold innovations that will truly help them achieve equity and opportunity beyond the pandemic. This once in a lifetime opportunity should be met with bold investments and guided by equity.


Manny Cruz is the New England Advocacy Director at Latinos for Education. Manny is also an elected school committee member, entrepreneur, and community leader in the city of Salem. As a school committee member, he serves as the Chair of the Personnel Subcommittee, is a member of both the policy and facilities committee, and is the board’s Student Advisory Council Liaison. He previously served as the legislative aide for former State Representative Juana B. Matias (D, Lawrence) and State Representative Paul F. Tucker (D, Vice Chair, Salem) where specialized in education and immigration policy.  Manny graduated with honors from Northeastern University with a B.S in Political Science and as a La Comunidad Latina En Acción Scholar.