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Less money, more problems: Difficult decisions loom as pandemic funding expires

Less money, more problems: Difficult decisions loom as pandemic funding expires


Juan Perez Jr. with help from Mackenzie Wilkes
February 12, 2024
ON THE EDGE — Billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief aid helped schools pay for staff, tutoring programs, and infrastructure through one of the toughest periods in American history. Now that money is running dry, just in time for a presidential election.
— Education Department officials are optimistic schools will have spent most of $122 billion in American Rescue Plan funds by the time that money must be earmarked in September. Tens of billions of dollars are still available. But there’s urgent concern over how schools might get burned when the money’s gone, as the process to request extensions to looming spending deadlines heats up in the coming months.
— District leaders will, or already are, making “very difficult decisions” about which programs they will keep or cut, said Allison Socol, The Education Trust’s vice president of P-12 policy, practice, and research during a recent chat with reporters.
— “It doesn’t look good,” Socol said. “It’s fewer educators, bigger class sizes, fewer mental health professionals and support staff, reduced extracurricular opportunities, and fewer advanced coursework opportunities.”
— The department estimates 1 to 3 percent of rescue plan funding will be left over by September 2024, the date by which schools must commit their money for spending. As of late January, a department official told Weekly Education, an estimated $51.8 billion in funding was still available.
— “We think the vast majority of that $51.8 billion is either already spent and there’s just a delay in the reimbursement – or it’s committed and will be paid out. So, for instance, staff salaries every two weeks for the next seven months,” the official said.
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