Is It Just Me?
For many Missouri students, the much-anticipated start of the school year has been a bust. Thousands of parents who were expecting to have a safe place to send their children learned very late in the summer that their district is sticking with virtual education for the time being. If these parents can’t afford to pay someone to look after their children and help them with their homework, what are they to do?
In some states—Oklahoma, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, to name a few—governors ve used flexible federal stimulus funding provided through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) to directly help these parents. In South Carolina, Governor McMaster created the Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) grant program for low-income students. Students who apply can receive up to $6,500 to help them pay tuition at a private school. Oklahoma’s Governor Stitt used GEER funds to create the Stay in School Fund, which gives low-income parents $6,500 to keep their children in private schools.
These seem like great ideas that are addressing an immediate need. In a perplexing move, Missouri’s governor has dedicated $15 million of the just over $54 million in GEER funds received to a Transportation Supplement Grant program. This money will eventually go to districts to cover additional COVID-related transportation costs. Other than PPE and cleaning buses more often, I can’t imagine what these costs would be, especially when so many districts are all virtual. But maybe it’s just me. Districts can request reimbursement for any COVID-related transportation costs between now and September of next year and they have until September of 2022 to make the requests.
The Secretary of Education sent a letter to every governor with the following guidance:
This extraordinarily flexible emergency block grant empowers you to decide how best to meet the current needs of students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations in your State so that faculty continue to teach and students continue to learn. My Department will not micromanage how you spend these funds, but I encourage you, at a time when so many school boards, superintendents, and institutions of higher education have had to close their brick and mortar campuses for the balance of the school year, to focus these resources on ensuring that all students continue to learn most likely through some form of remote learning. They and their families are depending on your leadership to ensure that they don’t fall behind.
We have thousands of desperate families with immediate needs, and yet we’re putting millions of dollars in emergency relief into an account so that two years from now districts can request reimbursement for face masks and bus cleaning? I don’t get it.