Delaware is devoting more of its COVID relief funds to post-secondary education and career readiness than other states.
“Overall, Delaware state spending is in line with national trends, but we see more of a priority in these areas in Delaware than in other states, so that’s one thing that really stands out. “said Austin Etes, project manager for the COVID Relief Data Project.
Etes spoke at a webinar on Tuesday, titled “Where’s the COVID education money now?” It was the last of a two-part series sponsored by First state educationa local education advocacy group.
RELATED: Here’s How $600 Million in COVID Education Money Was Spent
The project was started by the Council of Public School Principals to research and analyze how states use federal funds for state education agencies through the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund.
For a complete list of how much each school district in Delaware spends, click here.
The webinar was designed to analyze and digest where and how Delaware spent the $637,239,246 of the school emergency relief funds granted to them, an “insane” amount of money, said Laurisa Schutt, executive director of First State Educate.
$122 billion was distributed nationwide and allocated in three rounds:
- In March 2020, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, Delaware received $43,492,752.
- In December 2020, under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, Delaware received $182,885,104.
- In March 2021, through the American Rescue Plan Act, Delaware received $410,733,965.
All this money must be spent by 2024.
The state controls only about 10% of education relief funds, with most going to districts to spend on areas they have identified within their system.
The state used its share to fill vacancies, after-school programs, college-prep programs, learning loss, and access to technology.
It has spent $10 million on after-school programs such as comprehensive services, including before and after school care.
The state has spent $5 million to address remote learning and the digital divide.
“This greatly expands access to digital books in the state library system,” Etes said.
An additional $5 million was spent to fund tutors for students who suffered learning loss due to the pandemic.
Delaware put $3.5 million in retention bonuses for bus drivers as the state grapples with a shortage.
It also has spent $2.5 million to support post-secondary education and career readiness through counseling and college readiness programs.
Nationally, the top 10 areas where states have spent their money are:
- $4.18 billion in tutoring services
- $2.83 billion in expanded school services
- $1.98 billion in local supplement
- $1.44 billion in school staff
- $1.32 billion for programs and instruction
- $1.13 billion for distance learning and the digital divide
- $1.10 billion in mental health services
- $577 million for post-secondary education and career preparation
- $501 million for administration
- $398 million in equity and targeted supports
Delaware has been a leader in vocational and technical training and career preparation for years, Etes said.
“So a lot of Delaware’s ESSER money is also going to support college and career readiness.s,” she says.
Cara Candal, Chief Policy Officer at ExcelinEdsaid Delaware needs to follow up and make sure the programs it funds are working as intended and that students benefit from the spending.
“A lot of schools will tell you they need that money, and a lot of them do,” she said. “But as we all know, the devil is in the details of how you spend it.”
She brought up the idea of tutoring.
A district can take some of the ESSER money to hire tutors, she said, but there are so many ways to structure a tutoring program that schools should specifically ask how the tutor will work.
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“We have a lot of research that shows that for tutoring to be effective, it needs to be integrated into the curriculum being taught,” Candal said. “Your tutors actually need to be high quality. You need to assess whether you get more for your money doing four-way or one-way tutoring.
Schools also need to make sure parents and students understand how the program will work, she said.
If the tutoring is extra and happens after school or during the summer, Candal said, the state can’t know that students are actually showing up and benefiting from the millions who enter the program.
“It’s good to say you’re investing in ‘X’, but once things are rolled out, how do we know what the return on investment will be?” Candal asked.
To get these specific answers, First State Educate recommended community members sign up for their school district’s newsletter, attend their local school board meeting, and ask school staff. the following questions to spark a productive discussion:
- How much federal funding has our district/charter received?
- How do you plan to spend those federal dollars?
- What changes do you hope to see from these investments?
- How will you know that these changes are successful?
- When are community input meetings held?
- Where can I find a record of what has already been spent? Where can I find the current spending plan?
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a BA in Journalism and a BA in Political Science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before to join Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz