The new money comes as school districts across Oregon are gearing up to reopen classrooms by February. In-person learning comes with significant costs for air systems, personal protective equipment, facility safety protocols and especially staff for transporting, monitoring and teaching smaller cohorts of students.
On Dec. 21, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included a COVID-19 relief package. The bill allots $81.9 billion to the states for coronavirus-related expenses, with nearly all of it going to the Education Stabilization Fund created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in March.
The new law did not give money to state and local governments. Education advocates across the country fear state Legislatures, facing pandemic-battered budgets, will cut state spending on schools while using the federal money to backfill. Schools would end up with the same net amount when they need additional money for increased costs for keeping schools safe and making up learning loss.
Oregon’s legislative session opens Jan. 19, and legislators will be setting the State School Fund for 2021-23.
The CARES Act sent roughly $281 million to Oregon for education. The new bill will offer an additional $774 million, ODE said. Like CARES, the new bill divides the money among three funds: $499.2 million for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, $232.8 million for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and $42 million for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.
ODE will allocate 90% of the K-12 money, $449.2 million, directly to schools in the same manner as 2020-21 Title I funding. Most of the rest will be shared among schools that were left out, including state-sponsored charter schools. ODE expects to release a district-by-district allocation report within a week. The resources will be treated as a supplement so new applications won’t be necessary.
The CARES Act had few restraints on how schools could use the money, and the new allocation added three broad possibilities: addressing learning loss, preparing schools for reopening and improving school air quality.
School districts have until Sept. 30, 2022, to spend the original CARES money and until Sept. 30, 2023, to use the new money.
About $27 million of the governor’s discretionary fund will go to private schools, ODE said.