The Idaho State Board of Education on Monday moved to allocate millions in federal COVID-19 relief funds to Idaho districts that received little or no funding because of their Title I status.
The plan includes thousands in additional relief dollars that will be awarded to school districts in north central Idaho.
Title I funding is awarded to schools and districts based on the number of students enrolled who come from lower-income families.
Last year, more than $13 billion in federal COVID-19 relief was set aside for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER, under the CARES Act. This was expanded in late December under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, providing about $54.3 billion in funds for schools nationwide, $195 million of which was made available to Idaho. These funds were labeled ESSER II.
About $176 million was designated to go directly to local education agencies or districts in the state based on their Title I populations, but the remaining $19 million can be awarded by the Idaho State Board of Education. However, the legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set some requirements on how that $19 million can be spent, including that $6.1 million must be given to a pair of charter schools that have seen large increases to their student populations, among other changes.
Gideon Tolman, senior analyst for Gov. Brad Little’s Division of Financial Management, said that leaves about $11.9 million for the SBOE to allocate at its discretion. Tolman said the motion passed Monday used about $9.5 million to offset a 5 percent reduction to state education budgets passed last year. About $2.1 million would go to school districts that received no ESSER II funds and another $7.4 million would go to those that received a relatively low payment from the program to make their budgets “whole.”
“Those would be the amounts needed to get everyone to break even for fiscal year ‘21 between what was reduced in discretionary funding, and then what would need to be added in federal funding,” Tolman said.
Tolman said the remaining $2.3 million that could be divided among those same schools that received little or no ESSER II funding to help offset other COVID-19-related expenditures.
Under the plan, several school districts and other local education agencies in north central Idaho stand to receive thousands of dollars of additional support.
According to board documents, the Nezperce Joint School District will receive $35,560; the Genesee Joint School District will receive $32,177; the Kendrick Joint School District will receive $35,010; the Highland Joint School District will receive $14,393; the Potlatch District will receive $10,867; the Troy School District will receive $42,460; the Whitepine School District will receive $21,546; Palouse Prairie Charter School in Moscow will receive $25,645; the Culdesac School District will receive $8,999; and the Salmon River Joint School District will receive $1,627.
As a non-Title I school, Moscow Charter School would receive $66,755.
Another motion passed Monday anticipates a third dispersal of ESSER funds in the coming months. Pending approval of the state legislature, Tolman said the amount the SBOE can award from the so-called ESSER III funds is about $44 million — more than double the $19 million it is allocating currently.
The second motion, which passed unanimously, preliminarily designated 2.5 percent of that $44 million — about $1.1 million — to help those same non-Title I and low-Title I schools in fiscal year ‘22, which begins July 1. Board members noted that, since the Idaho Legislature ultimately has the final say over who has the authority to allocate these funds, this motion is essentially a recommendation.
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