Federal authorities approves Wisconsin’s $1.5 billion faculty pandemic assist plan, with a significant caveat | WUWM 89.7 FM

The U.S. Division of Training has approved Wisconsin’s plan for $1.5 billion in federal pandemic assist for colleges.

However there’s a main caveat, which can proceed to create uncertainty for dozens of college districts about simply how a lot cash they’ll obtain.

READ: Wisconsin pandemic aid plan hasn’t gotten federal approval, leaving some school districts in limbo

Here is the caveat: the Division of Training is not going to permit Wisconsin to make use of a portion of the federal funds to reward districts that had been open in-person and exclude districts that utilized distant studying.

Wisconsin’s Republican-led Joint Committee on Finance inserted a provision into the state ESSER 3 plan to direct $114 million solely to colleges that had been in-person for many of final faculty yr. One other portion would go solely to rural districts.

The finance committee provisions make up a small quantity of Wisconsin $1.5 billion in ESSER 3 funding, which stands for Elementary and Secondary Faculties Emergency Reduction. However they have been a sticking level holding up federal approval of Wisconsin’s plan, which implies some faculty districts have delayed planning for the cash that’s meant to deal with the impacts of the pandemic on college students.

After months of back-and-forth, the Division of Training approved Wisconsin’s ESSER 3 plan Monday. However the division is holding again 5% of the funding (about $77 million) till Wisconsin modifications the finance committee-authored provisions.

In a letter to Wisconsin State Superintendent Jill Underly, Training Secretary Miguel Cardona mentioned the ESSER 3 funds are supposed to assist college students who had been most impacted by the pandemic.

Cardona wrote that the finance committee provisions “will explicitly exclude the scholars who misplaced probably the most in-person tutorial time because of the pandemic…conflicting with the [American Rescue Plan] Act’s statutory requirement that the State reserve deal with the disproportionate influence of the coronavirus on sure pupil subgroups.”

Georgetown College faculty finance professional Marguerite Roza mentioned the Division of Training has given conditional approval to different states, however that is completely different.

“We’ve seen a few of these, however the caveats are actually minor, not main like this one,” Roza mentioned. “This one is: return and re-meet along with your legislature and alter a regulation that’s on the books. That’s an enormous caveat.”

The co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance launched a statement in response to the Division of Training’s choice Monday.

“The JFC and Republicans within the legislature proceed to place children first quite than play partisan political video games,” Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) and Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Inexperienced) wrote. “Everyone knows that our youngsters must be in class for in-person instruction—even DOE acknowledges that kids had been harmed by digital studying and stresses the significance of in-person instruction”

Born and Marklein mentioned they might “proceed to work on a plan to supply the remaining $77 million to colleges that prioritized in-person instruction when our youngsters wanted it most.”

A DPI spokesperson mentioned the division plans to work with the finance committee on a brand new proposal.

This continues to go away some faculty districts in limbo. For instance, Kettle Moraine Faculty District in Waukesha County anticipated to obtain greater than $2 million from the in-person faculty set-aside. Now, it’s unclear how a lot ESSER 3 cash the district will get.

“It is disappointing as a result of not having some funds certainty on when and if we’ll get a few of that funding is complicating our planning,” mentioned Kettle Moraine Chief Monetary Officer John Stellmacher. “Particularly as we discuss concerning the district funds for the 2022-23 faculty yr.”

Different districts, like Milwaukee Public Faculties, have gone forward with their ESSER 3 planning. That’s as a result of 90% of the ESSER 3 funds are mechanically distributed to districts with increased pupil poverty ranges, so MPS’ portion of the cash is far bigger, and extra sure, than prosperous districts like Kettle Moraine.

Wisconsin was one of many final 4 states within the nation to get federal approval of its ESSER 3 plan.

Editor’s notice: This story has been up to date.

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