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CARES Act: A $313 million federal cash infusion into Idaho education

Education

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Idaho could spend more than $264 million in federal money to backfill its K-12 budget this year.

Higher education, meanwhile, will receive more than $49 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the federal stimulus law passed in March.

Gov. Brad Little announced a plan Friday to pump another $150 million of CARES Act money into supporting schools. If approved, that would push education-related CARES Act spending past the $300 million mark.

Here’s where the feds’ money is going, and some political context.

K-12 line items

Here’s a breakdown of several key K-12 line items.

K-12 budget backfill: $99.3 million. This was the governor’s big announcement from Friday. The CARES Act money would replace, dollar-for-dollar, the state funding Little cut from the K-12 budget in July.

While the money would keep K-12 whole, it wouldn’t necessarily offset the money Little cut, line item by line item, from public schools.

Case in point: Little’s cuts placed $26.6 million in teacher pay raises on hold. School districts and charters will decide how to spend their share of the $99 million — so they might, or might not, put their money into pay raises.

The same goes for the other cuts Little spelled out: in technology, teacher training and other areas.

A gubernatorial committee — assigned to carve up Idaho’s $1.25 billion in CARES Act cash — will vote on this plan Tuesday.

Strong Families, Strong Students: $50 million. Also announced Friday, this proposal could provide grants to roughly 30,000 parents who are struggling with the cost of online education. The grants, up to $1,500 per student and $3,500 per family, could help pay for materials, devices and other services to support online learning.

Little’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee will also vote on this proposal Tuesday.

Emergency relief: $47.9 million. Approved in the spring, this was some of the first federal aid to go out to schools. Some of this money offset the $19 million Little cut from the K-12 budget on March 27, two weeks after Idaho reported its first coronavirus case.

Digital divide grants: $30 million. This program provides grants to school districts and charter schools, to offset the costs of offering online education or a blend of online and in-person learning. Approved in June.

Coronavirus tests: $21 million. This line item offsets teachers’ and staffers’ out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus tests. Approved in July.

PPE: $10 million. A line item for school protective gear: face masks, gloves, plexiglass shields and hand sanitizer. Also approved in July.

Idaho Digital Learning Academy: $3.1 million.

On top of all this, Little has about $5 million at his disposal, to spend by September 2022. He’s likely to spend that money on early literacy or programs to bridge student achievement gaps, spokeswoman Marissa Morrison Hyer said Monday.

What higher education received — and didn’t receive

Aid for schools and students: $45.4 million. The colleges and universities began receiving this money in the spring — based on a formula weighted heavily toward institutions with high numbers of students eligible for federal Pell grants. At least $19 million was earmarked for direct aid, to cover students’ coronavirus-related losses and expenses.

Payments by institution:

  • Boise State University, $13.2 million.
  • University of Idaho: $8.8 million.
  • Idaho State University: $8.5 million.
  • College of Western Idaho: $5.4 million.
  • College of Southern Idaho: $3.2 million.
  • North Idaho College: $2.6 million.
  • Lewis-Clark State College: $2.5 million.
  • College of Eastern Idaho: $1.2 million.

Idaho Online: $4 million. Approved in June, this line item will cover the rollout of Idaho Online, a digital higher education clearinghouse students can access statewide. The clearinghouse won’t launch until 2021.

Offsets for budget cuts: None. Little’s July budget cuts took 5 percent across the board: $99 million in K-12, $15 million in higher education, and so on. While Little wants to use CARES Act money to cancel out the K-12 cuts, he has no such plan for higher education. On Friday, Little downplayed the effects of the higher education cuts, saying the previous CARES Act outlays have helped pick up the slack.

“I would love to make everybody whole, but that’s not going to happen,” Little said Friday.

The bottom line

Little was in a celebratory mood Friday.

While the pandemic-driven downturn has forced other states to cut budgets by 20 to 40 percent — and cut education along the way — Little issued a news release touting a 10.5 percent increase in support for K-12.

The numbers do pencil out, if you add in every dime of the $264 million from the CARES Act. Without the feds’ money, Idaho’s K-12 funding support actually would be down by 1.1 percent.

And the $264 million in CARES Act money doesn’t all go into K-12 classrooms, in a traditional sense. It includes programs such as Strong Families, Strong Students and reimbursements for teachers’ coronavirus tests.

 

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