For K-12 schools, 2020 ended with much more than a big exhale from a challenging semester. After months of waiting and watching for further fiscal support for student learning, public schools will receive billions to help respond to and recover from the pandemic.
So as we begin 2021, what will the new money and other provisions mean for school reopening, learning loss, and your school district? Let’s dig in.
1. How much money will schools get?
The total amount of the stimulus package is $900 billion, $81.9 billion of which is earmarked for education. Of that, $54.3 billion will go to K-12 public schools while $22.7 billion will go to higher education. (Governors will get $4.1 billion, most of which must go to private schools.)
The K-12 money will be divided among states and then passed to districts in much the same way Title I funds are—similar to the approach taken with ESSER funding in 2020. High-poverty school districts will generally get a larger share.
2. Is $54 billion for K-12 a lot?
It works out to roughly $1,000 per public school student in the U.S. (though the amount per student will vary by district since the funding goes through Title I). By comparison, $54 billion is close to the total amount the federal government spends on K-12 schools in a normal year. Here’s a state by state breakdown of the stimulus money.
3. What can schools use this money for?
Lots of things. The bill green-lights items school leaders need “to address the needs of their individual schools”; anything already allowed under the main federal education law, ESSA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; and expenditures that let school districts continue operations and to keep employing their existing staff. This is similar to the guideline of the previous CARES Act / ESSER funding. Other accepted uses of funding include:
- Efforts to specifically help “low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth.”.
- Supplies for cleaning school buildings.
- Technology to support remote instruction.
- Mental health services.
- Summer or after-school programs.
- Efforts to address learning loss.
- School building upgrades and repairs for reducing COVID transmission, including improving ventilation.
4. What about private and parochial schools?
In addition, another $2.75 billion can go to private and parochial K-12 schools for things like equipment, training, staff, and other expenses needed to keep schools running. The measure specifically prohibits using the new money to support private school vouchers or other mechanisms for spending public money on private school tuition. The only exception is for governors who used their first round of discretionary dollars for such purposes.
5. What other aspects of the stimulus package will schools need to know?
- There’s no money for E-Rate, a program that helps schools purchase computers and internet access. But it does include funds meant to help low-income families access the internet.
- Funding awarded must be spent or allocated for expenditure by September 2022.
- Schools and districts have the ability to “mix and match” funding from different federal revenue streams to procure technology solutions.
- Similar to the CARES Act / ESSER money in 2020, states will need to check with their state department of education for information on how their application process will work. Each state will have their own pathway for allocating the funds.
Particularly as it relates to education technology and the digital health of students, the 2021 stimulus money will help support technology solutions for teaching, learning and digital student safety.
Stimulus funds are already on their way to districts and schools nationwide. Act quickly to make sure your school gets its share. Unsure how to get started with your application? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a Securly solutions specialist who can help design a solution around your unique needs.