Deadline Approaching for Michigan School Districts to Allocate Fed Stimulus Funds

There is $740.4 million remaining for schools to reimburse.

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Michigan’s public schools have billions of dollars in emergency COVID-19 federal funding to spend — but they may be in danger of losing some of it if it goes unallocated by the end of September.

In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a stimulus bill that pushed funding into communities to help address economic challenges posed by COVID-19. The American Rescue Plan included funding for schools and education agencies.

Michigan received over $3.7 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding in 2021, on top of previous, smaller stimulus checks. In total, the state has over $5.6 billion in federal funds to spend on education projects. The 2021 money must be allocated to schools or state education agencies for a specific project by Sept. 30.

But some Michigan districts and agencies may be in danger of not meeting that deadline and losing the funding, according to a release from the Michigan League for Public Policy.

A dashboard from the Michigan Department of Education (DOE) indicates there is $740.4 million remaining for schools to reimburse. While some schools may have already spent their allocated money without receiving reimbursements, there are probably millions of dollars left available for claiming in the next few months.

Local educational institutions, or public and charter schools, were allocated a bulk of this money. Public schools that received the federal funding are expected to combat “learning loss” caused by the pandemic, in addition to addressing inequalities that were exacerbated during this period. This could look like additional after school or summer programs for students, something educational advocates have said is greatly needed.

Additional ESSER money can be used for other health and education-related projects, including work-from-home or classroom technology, additional staff, improved air quality and mental health services.

Addressing long-term challenges

The one time payments may be difficult for schools to find projects for because they will only receive the funding once, according to Anne Kuhnen, the Kids Count policy director for the Michigan League for Public Policy. For example, if a district hired a mental health professional and paid their first year salary using the stimulus check, the district would have to use its own budget going forward, since the federal funds are not recurring.

“Expiration of the funding will be especially difficult for those districts that felt as if they had no other choice than to use some of the funds for recurring expenditures—and didn’t plan or plan well for this moment,” Michigan State Superintendent, Michael Rice said in a May 14 State Board of Education meeting.

Michael Rice

Michigan children were not exempt from learning challenges during the pandemic. Grade schoolers are less proficient in key subjects like math and reading than they were in 2019, before the pandemic, according to a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In the same report, Michigan received its lowest education ranking in 35 years. Michigan ranked 41 out of 50 states for education in the 2021-22 school year.

Biden’s stimulus plan hopes to address some of these academic challenges, especially as the economy could struggle with a new workforce that is not equipped with academic proficiencies.

For example, students in the United States enrolled in K-12 education during the pandemic could collectively lose $900 billion in income if math proficiencies continue to be low, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. This is attributed to the correlation between increased earnings and rising math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the thirty years prior to the pandemic.

Additionally, a study from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University predicts Michigan students will make roughly 5.4% less than if there had not been a pandemic due to learning loss. This could contribute to a loss in overall gross domestic product, the dollar amount of goods and services produced, of around $300 billion for Michigan.

The researchers of the study from Hoover Institution, Eric A. Hanushek and Bradley Strauss, write that much of the ESSER funding has been used for additional tutoring or education time for students to combat learning losses, but the best way to attack the problem would be through incentives for teachers to “take on more demanding classroom tasks.”

Rice said Michigan’s last two education budgets helped with pandemic and pre-pandemic era issues in the state, like the teacher shortage. He said recurring funding from the state budget will help address challenges like lack of literacy, transportation and teachers long-term.

“That’s not to say that we are where we need to be from a funding perspective,” Rice said. “It’s simply to say that we’ve made huge strides in the last two years, in the last two budgets, and I anticipate that this budget, we are going to make significant strides as well.”

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan J. Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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