(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she will allocate $60 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to Michigan school districts and higher education institutions that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding comes from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief (GEER) Fund.
“As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and approach the start of the new school year, we must continue doing everything we can to protect our students, educators, and support staff,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This funding will help us do just that, and ensure crucial support for our schools, whether it’s helping schools access [personal protective equipment] and cleaning supplies or helping students mitigate the impacts of learning loss in districts that need it most.”
The framework distributes $60 million to school districts based on their number of economically-disadvantaged students, special education students and English language learners.
Eligible school districts must have a concentration of economically-disadvantaged students of over 50 percent, compared to total district enrollment.
“It’s essential and appreciated that Gov. Whitmer is focusing these resources on districts with the highest need during this pandemic,” Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart said in a statement. “Both from a public health and from an educational standpoint, economically disadvantaged communities need these additional funds to keep students safe and academically engaged.”
Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools Dr. Leadriane Roby said the funds are “a significant step forward in equitably meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of our most at-risk youth.”
Recipient districts must use GEER funds for any of the following goals:
- Connectivity: Devices, internet access, access to remote services, or other similar purposes.
- Student Mental Health: Funding would enhance access to remote and in-person student mental health services.
- Addressing Learning Loss: Funding can be spent to offer supplementary content and intervention services to mitigate learning loss.
- Out-of-School-Time Learning: Funds could be used to support out-of-school-time learning to ensure students have safe spaces to learn remotely
- Remote Learning Materials and Training (digital and non-digital): Funds could address both digital and non-digital content where remote learning continues as the mode of instruction.
- Teacher Training and Curriculum: Funding could be used to provide additional professional development and curriculum modifications for distance learning
- Other health, safety, and wellness needs identified, required, or recommended in the MI Return to School Roadmap.
About $5.4 million will be distributed to other education-related purposes, such as statewide mental health services, public television learning resources, teacher education, and the Early On program for infants and toddlers.
Whitmer said she plans to provide more information next week to industries she’s forced closed for the last five months after her original stay-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes most bowling alleys, movie theaters, and gyms.