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Thursday, May 20, 2021

$180 Billion of K-12 COVID Relief Funds Are Still Unspent [feedly]

$180 Billion of K-12 COVID Relief Funds Are Still Unspent

Many school districts remain closed despite an avalanche of Congressional aid.

More than one year into the pandemic, state departments of education have spent just a fraction of the nearly $190 billion in emergency K-12 education aid provided by Congress.

As of March 31st, states had only spent $6 billion of the $65.7 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds provided by Congress in 2020, according to U.S. Department of Education data. This includes $12.8 billion through the CARES Act and $52.8 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, which became law in December. The below table provides a breakdown of state expenditures.

The 2021 American Rescue Plan included another $122.8 billion for ESSER funds. The Department of Education announced state allocations of this new funding in March. Based on what has been spent as of March 31st and the additional spending included in the American Rescue Plan, state departments of education have more than $180 billion in emergency funds available. The Department of Education has not begun tracking whether states have spent these funds.

Will Congress spend $100 billion more on K-12 education while $180 billion is still available?

President Joe Biden has proposed additional spending increases for K-12 public education. The American Jobs Plan calls for $100 billion to "upgrade and build new public schools," through direct federal grants and bonds. The American Families Plan proposes $9 billion in funding for American teachers to address shortages, improve training, and increase diversity, $17 billion to expand the national free and reduced school lunch program, and a $1 billion healthy food demonstration project for participating schools.

But experience over the last year suggests that state public education systems are unlikely to spend additional funds in the short run to help children. For example, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the American Rescue Plan and projected that $90 billion of the emergency ESSER funds would be spent between 2023 and 2028. The Department of Education data tracking state expenditures of ESSER funds through March 31st shows that, on average, state departments of education have spent less than half of the funds Congress appropriated in March 2020.

Rather than providing more than $100 billion in new funding to state departments of education that already have at least $180 billion in ESSER funds still available, Congress and state policymakers should be focused on using available funds to immediately help students recover from pandemic related learning losses and improve their learning opportunities moving forward. A promising strategy to address both needs is to provide funding directly to disadvantaged students through government-funded education savings account (ESA) programs to help parents pay for school tuition, tutoring, summer school and other educational enrichment services for their children. Seven states currently have active state-funded ESA programs.

$180 Billion of K-12 COVID Relief Funds Are Still Unspent was originally published in on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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