Oklahoma has received more than $825 million in federal relief dollars for K-12 education since the start of the pandemic.
The second allocation was more than four times the initial amount. Oklahoma received $160.9 million under the first package, approved by Congress in March 2020, and $665 million under the second, which was signed into law Dec. 27 last season.
The majority of the funds are available directly to districts, while a small portion was set aside for new and expanding charter schools, grant programs and agency administration.
Across the two allocations, Cordell Schools could receive about $640,000.
Cordell had access to almost $120,000 this year in the special funding, said superintendent Brad Overton.
That money went for teachers salary for virtual education, software for virtual education which includes software for credit recovery, he said.
“We were also able to purchase software to help promote virtual learning as well as Chromebooks for student use,” Overton said. “These funds were also used to purchase hotspots and internet access for families that needed better connectivity.”
Overton also said the district received another $100,000 through a competitive grant which originated from the ESSR funds.
“These funds were used to purchase IPads for PK-2nd graders as well as a few Chromebooks. Some software was also purchased with these funds,” he said.
The district will receive $510,000 in the second allocation, and must use that money by Sept. 20, 2023, Overton said.
“We will use these funds to continue to improve our virtual learning capabilities as well as to supplement our current budget.”
Districts have significant latitude to use their funds on education related expenses, including connectivity and technology, cleaning supplies, mental health, summer school and training for staff. The purpose of the funds is to address student learning loss, safely reopen schools and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students and families.
“I will use some funds for salaries, technology and software that will help us better serve our students,” he said.
The pandemic-related academic setback for students is an issue, Overton said.
“The software that we have purchased and that the state has provided will help with loss of learning,” Overton said. “We already provide after school tutoring during the school year. We will also look at summer programs to try and get students back on track.”
The federal money come with a stipulation that the state will maintain funding levels for education to be at least equivalent to the average of fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019, though states where revenue declined significantly can apply for a waiver.
Overton expects there will be budget decreases in the coming years.
“Our state aide for this year has been reduced by $113,000, I expect more reductions into next year as well,” he said.
The relief funds were distributed based on Title I, the federal program to assist high poverty districts.
States and districts have until September 2022 to spend the initial allocation and September 2023 to spend the second.
To see a database on the funding for all schools in Oklahoma, go to oklahomawatch.org