COVID Stimulus funds part of new national program
Relief from the Covid-19 pandemic takes many forms. Parents were aware that the December 2020 federal Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act ESSER II included desperately a new needed assistance for elementary and secondary schools. It has now been announced that the benefits for Pennsylvania children and families, passed over Pres. Trump’s veto, included $571 million Philadelphia’s School District!
The new funds can be spent on such crucial needs as learning loss among students, food supplies, and repairs and modifications to school facilities to make them safer from health risks – for instance improving air quality.
State Representative Joanna McClinton welcomed the additional funding, “These are challenging times, especially for our students and teachers. These federal stimulus dollars are critical in helping ensure our young people have access to the resources they need to continue receiving a quality education whether at home or in the classroom.”
The City’s allocation also included additional money for a dozen specific Southwest charter schools including:
– Southwest Leadership Academy Charter: $2.39 million.
– Richard Allen Preparatory Charter: $1.64 million.
– KIPP West Philadelphia Charter: $1.36 million.
– Phila. Montessori Charter: $0.64 million
Information from the Spotlight News Service in October 2020 indicated that the annual shortfall in school funding for Philadelphia schools was $5,583 per student – among the top ten shortfalls in Pennsylvania. The key contributing factors were having over 65 percent of children coming from low-income homes, 13 percent classed as “English Learners,” and 17 percent qualifying as “Special Education” pupils.
Overall, Spotlight estimated that the state’s schools need an additional $4.6 billion to close education gaps. The gap between tax-rich and tax-poor districts has been widening during the last 10 years and according to most education experts is reflected in student performance, graduation rates, and qualification for further education.
In the first COVID “CARES” Act Pennsylvania was provided some $175 million, but it had to be distributed on a per capital enrollment basis rather than on the needs of need.
The new funds can be spent on such crucial needs as learning loss among students and repairs and modifications to school facilities to make them safer from health risks – for instance improving air quality.
It should be noted that the one-time, emergency federal funds are only a supplement to the basic funding of Pennsylvania public schools. The critical issue in that respect is still the fact that in opposition to Governor Wolf’s strong plea, the state legislature has only allowed new funding to be allocated on a needs basis.
The the opportunity to submit public comments on the new year’s school funding will follow Governor Wolf’s budget address on February 2.
*Table: JOHN DUCHNESKIE / Staff Artist Source: Public Interest Law Center; Education Law Center
Information for this article was provided by Spotlilght; Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA; and John Duchneskie, Public Interest Law Center. Included as well are excerpts from articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Maddie Hanna. Photo credit, Jessica Griffin, staff photographer, Philadelphia Inquirer