In response to intensified inequities in the education system brought on by the pandemic, United Way’s TransformED grants to 12 education organizations are designed to help sustained improvement to the education system in support of LA’s most vulnerable students, their teachers and parents.

Another school year of remote learning threatens to deepen the stark achievement gap between Black and Latinx students and their White and Asian peers. Student performance and growth rely on stable support systems, food, healthcare, and housing, all of which the pandemic has made precarious in underserved communities.

A report by Los Angeles Unified School District’s Independent Analysis Unit found that Black and Latinx students are less likely to participate in online learning, threatening to further widen the gap. Challenges compound for low-income students, foster and homeless youth, and students with disabilities.

“The pandemic sparked unprecedented challenges to our education system, intensifying existing inequities, exposing gaps, and creating the most suffering for our vulnerable students,” said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “Rather than maintaining ineffective models that deepen racial and economic inequities, we have an opportunity to transform our system. United Way of Greater Los Angeles is investing in a dozen local organizations with a track record of student-centered services and advocacy to reimagine our system in an equitable way.”

The TransformEd grants come on top of previous investments made by United Way’s Pandemic Relief Fund. Announced in early March, the Fund has already granted nearly $1 million to 29 nonprofit partners who made rapid, urgent pivots to support vulnerable students and their families.

TransformED grantees will help scale up innovative practices that address inequities in Los Angeles’ highest-need communities. Initiatives receiving grant funding: Address the digital divide; increase capacity building for educators; establish social-emotional support for families; strengthen college readiness; and fortify school stakeholder engagement efforts.

“This project is aligned with the core value of SBCC which is to discover and celebrate each person’s gifts and talents. Reimagining an education system where this happens is part of our mission,” said Rudy Melendez, community organizer, Strength Based Community Change. “Supporting students’ social emotional learning through teaching tools that improve student engagement and academic outcomes is what SBCC and specifically this grant is all about.”

“As we navigate this next phase of COVID-remote learning, we know teachers will continue to rise to the challenge as they did last spring. However, students and teachers need support to connect and build relationships in order to thrive,” said Alicia Montgomery, executive director, The Center for Powerful Public Schools. “This grant allows us to provide training to teachers and school administrators to increase the quality of strategies used to support students through social, emotional, and of course academic distance learning. We will continue to create platforms to share peer-to-peer best practices between educators, allowing them to grow in this unprecedented way of learning. We must take the opportunity to allow a new, better and more equitable system emerge.”