Kentucky will receive about $928 million in a second round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief federal funding, with Owensboro Public Schools and Daviess County Public Schools expected to receive about $6 million and $8.16 million, respectively.
In a webcast this week, superintendents learned of these funds, which was called the “largest and most flexible allocation of discretionary K-12 funding in history” by Robin Kinney, associate commissioner in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Finance and Operations.
This amount is at least four or five times the amount districts received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020, Kinney said during the webcast, and it can be used for eligible expenses dating to March 13, 2020.
The funding is based on previous Title 1 allocations, and the ESSER funds have to be tracked separately from the previous allocation, Kinney said.
The money can be used for addressing learning loss due to the pandemic, including payment for methods of assessment and tracking; repairs and improvements to school buildings related to health needs and cutting disease transmission; to pay for nurses, mental health professionals and emergency leave days for employees; as well as teacher salaries to support intervention and remediation services, along with substitute teachers when regular personnel are absent on COVID-19 isolation or quarantine, Kinney said.
Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Constant said he is pleased with the news and that the district plans to use the funds for a wide range of items, including teacher salaries.
“The parameters are loose in terms of what we can spend it on, and I was just so pleasantly pleased and surprised to hear the news,” he said, adding that the amount OPS will be receiving is at least three or four times what it got in the first round of ESSER funds.
There are so many COVID-related expenses the district is incurring that have “far outstripped” what the district got before, he said.
The district still has a lot of planning to do, Constant said, in terms of what the money will go toward, but he said it can be spent on summer programming, which is needed.
“We know that with the learning modes going on in this school year we are going to have, and do have, academic gaps,” he said. “So we will be working with our gaps to identify some helpful summer programming that will get kids in our buildings throughout the summer on all grade levels, especially to intervene for the most critical learners.”
With the funds being made an allowable general expense, Constant said they can be used to supplement teacher COVID-related sick days that the district has had to give and that has caused it to dip into the OPS general fund.
Constant thanked federal legislators that added these provisions to the omnibus bill that was passed Dec. 27, 2020.
“This is impressive and welcome,” he said.
Matt Robbins said that the district will do a lot of planning to determine where best to spend the money, but he knows it will be helpful with the budgetary shortfalls facing the district and other general expenses that have been incurred since last March.
Revenues are down in some categories and expenses have increased, Robbins said, specifically in terms of providing technology for students to remotely learn and providing options for virtual education.
After budgetary needs, the learning loss needs of students will be addressed, Robbins said, and that learning loss opportunities will be offered whenever there is a chance to do so.
“If we are not in school, we will do something in addition, beyond the school day, so that kids can receive those additional educational services that they have missed,” he said.
He also applauded the flexibility of the money, and said that it is “everything we could have asked for without a lot of strings attached to it.”
“From all appearances and information shared (legislators) have done a really good job of trying to give us the money to meet the greatest needs,” he said.
KDE also told superintendents during the webcast that more funding is coming from other sources, including $19.5 million for public schools and $40.8 million for private schools in a second round of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GREER).
Bobbie Hayse, email@example.com, 270-691-7315