A boost for education in several states is coming in the form of awards to schools to strengthen learning opportunities and environments that are critical for their success.

South Dakota and Minnesota will both benefit from nearly $1 billion awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

In a Dear Colleague Letter, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona outlined three principles that state educational agencies are strongly encouraged to consider when designing a competitive grant competition and providing local educational agencies with direction for how they use these funds:

(1) create positive, inclusive, and supportive school environments; and increase access to place-based interventions and services (2) Engaging students, families, educators, staff, and community organizations in the selection and implementation of strategies and interventions to create safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environments (3) Designing and implementing policies and practices that are responsive to underserved students, protect student rights, and demonstrate respect for student dignity and potential.

According to a release, grants allocated for the Midwest region include:

South Dakota - $4,833,025
Iowa - $5,988,079
Minnesota - $10,481,264
Nebraska - $4,833,025
North Dakota - $4,833,025

Funds can be used to provide all students with safe and supportive learning opportunities and environments that are critical for their success.

For example, funds could support the kind of work underway in Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota where they are spending almost $13 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support the mental health and wellness of students and staff. This approach includes: hiring 32 additional counselors, social workers, and psychologists; partnering with community organizations to offer mental health support for students; training staff on how to handle trauma, and creating calming spaces for staff and students.

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You know those Post-it notes that you used to put up on your mirrors or around your house to remind you of different things. Well, some people in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin could use a whole pile of those to put up all over their world because they need some refreshers on a few basic things. Most are about driving but there are a few other moments in life that you'll realize annoy you too.

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