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HomeEducationWhat's protecting districts from spending COVID aid funding?

What’s protecting districts from spending COVID aid funding?


2020 and 2021 noticed $190 billion in federal aid funds go to varsities via the Elementary and Secondary Faculty Emergency Aid Fund (ESSER).

However why aren’t faculties spending the cash? The reply–or, extra precisely, solutions–provides a glimpse into the difficult state of post-COVID schooling.

Districts obtained funds primarily based on their Title I funding, and ESSER funds should be spent by September 2024. Whereas many districts have deliberate how they’ll use their funding, they haven’t truly spent it to this point.

COVID continues to throw a wrench in plans

New COVID variants inflicting new waves of infections have continued to complicate districts’ plans.

In accordance with a report from AASA, superintendents should collaborate with quite a few stakeholders as they develop spending plans. Whereas they’re capable of rethink spending choices, it’s difficult–many districts might wait till late spring after they should finalize native budgets to rethink or modify their ARP spending priorities as effectively.

The AASA report notes that “the Delta and Omicron variant difficult many districts’ plans to doubtlessly shift gears within the 2022-23 college yr since studying restoration efforts had been difficult through the fall and winter of 2021 as a result of labor shortages, short-term college closures and the necessity to proceed investing closely in PPE and different pandemic-related provides and desires.”

Continued waves of an infection have pressured many districts to alternate between in-person, hybrid, and fully-online studying. Many districts nonetheless haven’t absolutely assessed the place studying gaps exist and what college students have to catch up academically, emotionally, and socially. Till a clearer photos emerges–an image that consistently modifications as COVID modifications–spending COVID aid funds to shut studying gaps stays unpredictable.

“We’ve spent all of this yr figuring out the place the gaps are, what our youngsters did or didn’t study through the closures, what they want now, what the social and emotional points are, and the place the challenges to their studying are,” stated Dr. Kenny Rodrequez, superintendent of Missouri’s Grandview C-4 Faculty District.

“We had a superb plan, and a fairly good concept, however we needed to frequently plan and modify primarily based on what we noticed with our youngsters. You’re making a plan for one thing that’s consistently in movement and consistently altering,” he stated.

Provide chain points make it troublesome to spend the funds earlier than their September 2024 expiration

AASA’s report additionally notes that districts are having hassle spending their aid funds on HVAC and capital enhancements in class and district buildings. A majority of district leaders say they plan to make use of the funding for such enhancements, however greater than half say utilizing the funds for infrastructure and HVAC upgrades will probably be troublesome given provide chain points, labor and materials shortages, and present timelines and challenge paces.

States are sluggish to get the cash to districts

The funds include necessities, and following and documenting these necessities might be an concerned course of.

“The {dollars} have so many rules and record-keeping–they’ll solely be spent a sure approach, so there needs to be coordination with the entire oversight,” stated Dr. Curtis Finch, superintendent of Arizona’s Deer Valley Unified Faculty District.

Laura Ascione
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