Education officials addressed the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Budget Review Subcommittee on Education on July 7, describing how federal COVID-19 relief funding is being used across the state. Money for schools has come from multiple sources, including Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) rounds I and II, American Rescue Plan (APR) ESSER funds, two rounds of Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding, and Emergency Assistance for Non-public Schools (EANS), said Robin Kinney, associate commissioner in the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Office of Finance and Operations.
“These funds are very flexible in nature, and so we thought it best for you to hear from some of the folks who are really implementing them at the local level,” she told committee members.
Kentucky is receiving $3.1 billion from three rounds of ESSER funding, plus $30 million from GEER I and more from GEER II, Kinney said. The KDE is administering $82 million from two rounds of EANS funding, though only the first $40 million round has been received so far, she said.
The dates by which the money from all these sources must be used are staggered from Sept. 30, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2024. Funding can be used retroactively for expenses back to March 13, 2020, Kinney said.
The money must be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to effects of COVID-19 on education, she said. One important and frequent use is buying technology to equip schools and students for remote learning. Other major areas of expenditure are mitigating learning loss and supporting mental health, Kinney said.
Almost 80% of ESSER I funds already have been used, she said. Less has been spent from ESSER II funds, and districts are preparing spending plans in anticipation of receiving ARP ESSER funds, Kinney said.
Eighty-two percent of GEER funding has been spent on technology and food services, she said.
The ESSER II and ARP ESSER allocations required a 10% state set-aside, totaling $92.8 million, Kinney said. Much of that money was distributed to the Kentucky School for the Deaf, Kentucky School for the Blind, area technology centers and other statewide programs, she said. But $38 million of that amount was made available to school districts if they met certain student support and instruction criteria.
The committee chair, District 23 Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, noted that last year the General Assembly passed a bill and allocated funding to expand kindergarten from a half-day to a full day. Kinney said that bill provided $140 million, and all 171 of the state’s public school districts intend to offer full-day kindergarten in the fall.
Jackson County Public School District Superintendent Mike Smith provided the following response regarding how the Jackson County Public School System has proposed spending some of this funding: “Our school District, along with other school districts, received federal monies in response to the COVID-19 Response and Relief. Even though there is some flexibility, the funds are restricted. Local education agencies have allowable uses for these funds and there is a funding matrix that guides what the permissible uses are. There are required assurances and a required spending plan that our school District completed and submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education, to ensure that the monies are used properly and within federal guidelines. We approached this as an opportunity to do purchases/projects that would have a long-term positive impact on our students and our District. Since these are “one-time monies”, we avoided recurring expenses. Our District’s spending plan that was submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education included:
- Funding for our Summer Success Academy to address learning loss for our students due to COVID-19
- A new evidence-based reading series/curriculum for Kindergarten – Grade 12 students, which includes textbooks, instructional materials, digital courseware, etc.
- A new evidence-based math series/curriculum for Kindergarten – Grade 12 students, which includes textbooks, instructional materials, digital courseware, etc.
- A huge amount of technology, including additional new Chromebooks for our students, a new Chromebox for each teacher, new interactive boards for each classroom, an upgrade of the District wide wireless system, etc.
- New Buses
- Renovation projects including a roof replacement for McKee Elementary School, a roof replacement at Sand Gap Elementary School, a roof replacement at Tyner Elementary School, and new exterior window replacements