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First Lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visit Detroit public school

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Briana Rice | Michigan Radio
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Jill Biden and Miguel Cardona visited Schulze Academy for Technology and Arts on July 21, 2022.

First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited a Detroit Public School Tuesday.

Officials say the $800 million in American Rescue Plan funding allowed Detroit Public Schools to double the number of students enrolled in summer school programs.

Biden and Cardona visited the Schulze Academy for Technology and Arts. At this school, both traditional academic courses and enrichment courses are offered.

During the visit, Biden and Cardona spoke with students and instructors during an English course, a photography course, and a cooking class.

Dr. Jill Biden says these programs show how far the country has come since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Briana Rice | Michigan Radio
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"Our kids can catch up, they just need a little support to do it. That's why I'm so grateful, too, for the teachers who are inspiring our kids, and I can see that right here in all of the classrooms I visited," Biden says.

Detroit Public Schools Community District's Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says that for the past two years, the district has finally felt equitably funded thanks to federal and state COVID relief funding.

"We have done everything from putting a nurse in every one of our buildings, expanding mental health at every one of our 100 schools. We have been able to offer after-school programming, summer programming — not only academic, but as you saw today, enrichment programming," he says.

Students say that they enjoyed the classes and are taking home the skills they learned, especially from the cooking class.

Cardona says the American Rescue Plan funding is providing opportunities for students.

"Yes, we know that summer slide is real. Yes, we know the pandemic robbed us of opportunities to be in the classroom. But these students are learning not only how to read and write and math but how to do skills and how to learn about themselves and connect with one another," he says.

Cardona says Detroit is doing "exceptionally well" at providing enrichment programs alongside academic lessons, like the cooking and photography classes offered at some of Detroit's summer programs.

"Yes, they're learning to cook, yes they're learning photography, they feel good about themselves," he says. "$122 billion went out and programs like this remind us how important it was when the President and Congress passed the American Rescue Plan."

Michigan got over $3.7 billion in American Rescue Plan funds. White House officials say the state and school districts are expected to spend at least $925 million on academic recovery, including summer programming.

Briana Rice is a reporter/producer operating out of Detroit.