In 2021, the federal government allotted $122 billion to K-12 schools in order to address new sanitation needs related to COVID-19, and to counter learning deficiencies caused by the pandemic. While things may seem to be returning to normal, schools and students are still feeling the effects of disrupted learning time. To put students back on track and keep them safe from illness, some school districts are wondering if there will be another round of funding.
Why do schools want more Covid funding?
You may have already seen many news articles about billions of Covid dollars going unused, so why would school districts hope for even more?
For many schools, the goal of securing Covid funds is often dashed by fears of falling off a so-called “funding cliff.” Big pushes to hire more teachers or sanitation staff have been put on the backburner, because once the influx of Covid cash dries up, school districts may not be able to continue to pay all of these new employees. If promised another round of funding, many schools may be more comfortable moving forward with these initiatives.
Other leaders in education have pointed out that many schools were underfunded well before the Covid pandemic and argue in favor of expanded federal funding in general. Proponents of these efforts hope to bring better internet connectivity to rural school districts, hire tutors and more special education professionals, and provide students with free lunches.
Unfortunately, the US Treasury Department’s final rule on Covid funding makes it pretty clear that this is the final time schools will receive any Covid-related federal funding. At this point, schools should not expect any more federal funding to be diverted to schools, outside of the norm.
While the federal government won’t be coughing up more cash anytime soon, schools could receive additional funding from their state governments. Passed alongside the CARES Act in March 2020, the federal government disbursed funds to state governors to use as they see fit to benefit education. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, or GEER, allowed governors to target funds to certain initiatives or school districts in order to directly address specific needs and underserved communities.
Depending on your state’s governor’s rules, GEER funds could be used for a variety of projects. In Georgia, $37.4 million in GEER funding will address learning deficiencies caused by the Covid pandemic and will fund teachers’ classroom supply needs. In other states, GEER money was simply added to the already existing pot of Covid education funding to be distributed under the same rules laid out in the ARPA.
Unlike the SLFRF funds that have received lots of news coverage over the past two years, GEER funds have been widely overlooked. Each state’s governor has the power to allocate funds wherever they see fit, but school districts shouldn’t shy away from petitioning their state government for a piece of the pie. Governors only have until September 2023 to distribute GEER funds, so now is the time to reach out and request assistance.
How to Use Remaining Covid Funds
We certainly agree that schools deserve more funding, but in the absence of any further federal funding related to COVID-19, we have a few ideas for how your school can get the most out of both SLFRF and GEER funds.
The Treasury Department began releasing the second tranche of Covid funding in May 2022,
but schools have until 2024 to spend the money. That being said, many school districts have not spent their allotted funds. Teachers and coaches who hoped for more funding may still have the opportunity to use Covid funds for classroom and team initiatives, especially those that pertain to student health and infection prevention.
If you’re looking to invest in your school sports team’s safety on a tight budget, Sports-O-Zone sanitizing systems significantly reduce bacteria, viruses, and molds from athletic gear—and can be purchased using Covid funds. As an infection prevention measure, Sports-O-Zone falls under acceptable uses of Covid money, and can keep your team free from season-ruining illnesses like staph infections, MRSA, and other contagious diseases.