MINNESOTA, USA — The $1,400 stimulus checks get a lot of the attention, but there is more going on in this latest stimulus bill that you might not realize, especially when it comes to schools.
Denise Anderson is the Chief Financial Officer with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)
With around $125 billion in K-12 education funding, Anderson says this 3rd stimulus bill includes more money for schools than the last two stimulus bills combined.
"It is double what round two was and round two was four times more than the first one,” Anderson says.
According to MDE, Minnesota is slated to receive around $1.32 billion in education funding.
Anderson says school districts will receive a portion of that money and 20% of the money they receive must be spent on addressing “learning loss.”
"They might start some before school programs, after school programs, summer school programs,” Anderson explains.
This mandatory spending is meant to address the learning gaps that emerged during the pandemic.
Besides addressing learning loss, the remaining funds can be used by school districts to pay for a variety of other initiatives, programs and infrastructure upgrades.
Anderson says these expenditures must fit certain criteria, but school districts have the liberty to spend this money as they see fit.
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht says supporting the mental health of students should be a top priority.
“There are a lot of social and emotional needs that we need to address,” Specht says.
She says other top priorities should include safety improvements, including more efficient ventilation systems and cleaning regimens, and more funding to hire and retain teachers.
“This funding can help prevent non-renewals and it can prevent layoffs at a time when I think students really need school staff working with them,” Specht says.
School districts are now waiting to find out how much money they'll receive.
MDE is hoping to have their allotments figured out by early to mid-April so school district leaders can start making budget decisions for next school year.
"We are working hard to get that out,” Anderson says.
Besides K-12 schools, the latest stimulus bill also has nearly $40 billion set aside for colleges and universities.
That money will go towards financial aid for students and relief for schools struggling.