BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD)- On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee questioned the Department of Education on COVID relief funding allocation between school districts and teacher pay raises.
Since the pandemic began there have been multiple acts passed to provide federal relief funding to schools. Senators brought up questions and concerns on if that money was fairly distributed and spent.
With a third wave of federal relief funds headed to Louisiana schools, the Department of Education has been finding out where it can be best spent. Some areas include hiring on more staff, mental health services, transportation, and many more projects. They are also working to be transparent of where the funds are going to help students and staff.
“The public can go in and they can look at that system and they can see they spent X dollars on this or X percentage on that,” Louisiana State Superintendent Cade Brumley said. “So we’re trying internally as a level of public transparency on the dollars as well. “
The funding for each district is based on student population and on the need base of the students. Senator Mack “Bodi” White brought up the discrepancy between public and private school COVID funds in the first wave. He said private schools don’t often track the need base in their students.
“The December allocation in many ways corrected upon the mistakes of the March allocation,” Brumley said.
Much of the initial federal dollars allocated by the governor last year went towards technology for remote learning and other tools needed for out of the classroom teaching. When the first round of CARES Act funding came about, schools tried to save for the long term. But with a third payment just given they are planning for programs they haven’t been able to consider in years past.
“We have put out guidance on what a robust summer programming could look like, recognizing that for many years systems and educators have said ‘oh if I just had a few dollars this is what I’d like to do over the course of a summer’ and so we presented this idea that summer should recognize that kids have lost out on more than reading and math,” Brumley said.
Summer school is just one of the ways the department of education plans to use the CARES Act funding. There are some limitations from the federal level on what it can be used for. Senators urged the superintendent that the four billion dollars given to schools shouldn’t be wasted.
“Use the money wisely over 2-3 years and pay for some of the things they’ve wanted forever and this may be the opportunity to do that,” Senator White said.
The senators began to make arguments that some school districts, namely in southwest Louisiana, are going to need extra support for students since they have dealt with natural disasters on top of the pandemic. Arguments and questions are anticipated to continue for weeks as it comes to COVID relief dollars as well as the proposed pay increases for teachers.