Stimulus dollars will offer welcome relief for cash-strapped K12 leaders
With the passing of The American Rescue Plan on March 11th, school leaders across the country are now anticipating another round of federal relief funding. This bill provides even more widespread economic aid for education, including $122.8 billion specifically earmarked for K-12 districts.
In comparison to the previous two federal relief bills, the American Rescue Plan provides by far the most opportunity for impact. Altogether, these bills offer a welcome infusion of funding for many districts which have been struggling financially in the wake of the pandemic.
How will the dollars get distributed?
The bulk of the money allotted to stabilize K-12 schools in the bill will go directly to school districts based on the proportion of funding they receive through Title I of the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Each state can reserve as much as ten percent for administration purposes, leaving the rest for local districts.
Like the first two rounds of COVID relief aid, the latest measure allows for a broad range of uses for dollars within school districts.
Learn more about how to prepare for the federal relief funding and maximize the opportunity for reinvestment in your district with our Stimulus for Schools Checklist. >> Download now
What can those funds be used for?
Districts fall across a wide spectrum of mission-critical needs and progress towards meeting those objectives. While some districts may be looking to expand technology and capabilities, others may need to replace failing infrastructure. Because of this, the funds will be able to flex across the evolving demands of districts.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the most popular uses of federal funding thus far have been:
- Addressing student learning loss including afterschool and summer learning programs
- Repairing school facilities, especially ventilation systems, to improve air quality and reduce spread of COVID-19
- Purchasing hardware and software needed to conduct remote and hybrid learning
- Providing services to support student mental health
What kind of impact will upgrades funded by stimulus dollar have on schools?
From plexiglass barriers to improved HVAC, many school districts nationwide will be using stimulus dollars to rethink infrastructure, classroom design, and other building upgrades as they return to in-person learning.
Because so many schools have inefficient and aging systems, ventilation will be important, according to Phyllis W. Jordan, editorial director at the Georgetown University think tank FutureEd. "The bill specifically mentions it, and so you'll see a lot of districts invest in that area."
Learn more about our brand-agnostic approach to creating healthy buildings and healthy budgets. Our engineering team takes a holistic approach to find solutions with the biggest impact for every school district, based on their current situation and goals. >> Download the Healthy Buildings Guide
Infrastructure improvement projects can significantly improve air quality and the indoor environment for students, help schools reduce their carbon footprint, and save significantly on energy costs, another cornerstone of the incoming Biden administration.
Are you ready to take advantage of funding opportunities?
Many district leaders are desperately in need of additional dollars to keep their facilities, staff, educational quality and community engagement afloat. However, the application and implementation of those dollars to make a tangible impact—and see quick returns—is a key area that greatly benefits from the use of experts in infrastructure and energy efficiency.
Outside partners can help to scope meaningful projects, source an expert team, and oversee the project to ensure timely and accurate delivery. In addition, the funding received according to the allocation plan may not cover the full list of necessary upgrades. Federal aid could be the first step in a long-term plan that continues to build towards a modern, healthy and safe learning environment.
To maximize short-term funding opportunities while creating long-term stability in their budget, districts may use this modernization mandate in combination with an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) to accomplish more.
ESPCs allow school districts to not only address foundational infrastructure issues, such as wiping out deferred maintenance backlogs, but also reinvest savings to fund far-reaching goals, such as sustainable athletic fields and upgraded STEM labs. An ESPC partnership team also includes financial experts to help find, apply, and implement federal- and state-level stimulus opportunities as they become available.