Home > Uncategorized > Public Schools are Getting Billions from the American Rescue Plan. Should Private Schools Get a Fair Share? Schumer and Weingarten Say Yes Given Safeguards THEY Contend Are in Rescue Plan… I’m Not So Sure

Public Schools are Getting Billions from the American Rescue Plan. Should Private Schools Get a Fair Share? Schumer and Weingarten Say Yes Given Safeguards THEY Contend Are in Rescue Plan… I’m Not So Sure

March 14, 2021

The amount of money going to public education as a result of the Rescue Bill passed earlier this week is astonishing!  A Chalkbeat article by Matt Barnum reports that the colossal American Rescue Plan includes $128 billion for K-12 schools PLUS a number of other provisions that will provide support. Thats almost 30 times as much as President Obama allocated for his ill-conceived Race to the Top…. and this is on top of $70 billion schools already received as a result of the initial rescue package passed earlier. Mr. Barnum offers several examples of how much $128 billion works out to:

A few ways to think about that figure:

  • It is almost certainly the largest single federal outlay on K-12 education in U.S. history.

  • It’s nearly eight times what the federal government spends annually on the Title I program.

  • It’s more than twice what the federal government spends on education in a typical year.

  • It amounts to about 20% of all K-12 public operating spending in 2018, the most recent year with data available.

  • The three relief packages together add up to much more federal help than schools got during the Great Recession.

And how does that money get divvied up?

  • 90% of that goes to school districts. The Title I formula determines how much each district gets.

  • States get 5% of that to create resources to help schools address learning loss, another 1% help create summer school programs, and another 1% to help create after-school programs.

  • The U.S. Department of Education gets $800 million (less than 1%) to identify and support students who are homeless and also issue grants to states to do the same.

  • States can decide how to use the small share that’s left.

There’s a separate $2.58 billion going to states to support students with disabilities.

Lastly, $2.75 billion is set aside for private schools. This money, distributed by governors, is for those schools serving a “significant” number of students from low-income families.

It’s that last paragraph from Mr. Barnum’s article that led to some controversy as the American Rescue Plan wended its way through Congress, a $2.75 carve out that resulted from a bargain struck by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nathan J. Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a bargain that Randi Weingarten supported… and a bargain that earmarked funds for private schools that was not included in the House version of the bill. In an article in today’s NYTimes, writer Erica Green describes the details of the bargain and the fallout that resulted, fallout because the amount Mr. Schumer included was nearly the same amount Betsy DeVos sought and the House fought to keep out of previous legislation. But in this case, Ms. Weingarten felt that providing a relatively small share of the funds to private schools was morally correct and politically acceptable given the clause requiring the funds be spent on “…schools serving a “significant” number of students from low-income families” would protect the money from going to schools serving affluent parents, which was a flaw in Betsy DeVos’ proposal. This notion was reinforced by Nathan Diament, who

…likened Mr. Schumer’s decision to Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s move more than a decade ago to include private schools in emergency relief funding if they served students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

That, for me, was a most unsettling analogy… because the funding for Hurricane Katrina went to create charter schools– many of whom were for profit— that ultimately displaced public schools in that city.

The fact that the funds appear to be directed to public school systems is a clear victory for public education… but only if the public school systems use those funds to shore up their operations in the many ways possible given the relative flexibility in terms of how the money can be used. In the coming months, it will be imperative for all of the associations and unions serving public schools work harmoniously to ensure that the funds they receive are spent wisely— and to make sure the language regarding private school funding is followed.

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