Kansas school leaders having to decide how to spend more than $1 billion in federal relief money

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA (KSNT) – More than a billion dollars is heading to Kansas schools. The money comes from multiple federal coronavirus relief programs.

On Wednesday, the Kansas State Board of Education approved $25 million for 34 districts. The money, known as ESSER II, is the second of three federal coronavirus relief bills.

ESSER II includes more than $330 million specifically for Kansas schools to apply for. Some of that money has already gone out before Wednesday.

What districts are spending money in round two is different than ESSER I.

“With ESSER I a lot of it was technology and improving that so that you could do remote learning,” said Craig Neuenswander, deputy commissioner for fiscal and administration services at the Kansas Department of Education. “Now it’s more summer school, after school programs, different curriculum, supporting staff, by either additional staff or working extra time, so additional pay for those types of services.”

Allocations must be COVID-19 related. Education leaders said the pandemic has caused a long-term shift in the education system.

“We will continue to see effects of the pandemic particularly in student learning for several years now,” Neuenswander said.

Money is being used to reimburse expenses like Zoom licenses and cleaning supplies. It’s also being designed to be used in the future for things like transportation, insurance costs, HVAC systems and implementing new education programs and curriculum.

“This could really make a significant impact on students for the next four or five years,” Neuenswander said.

Kansas schools will soon be eligible for an additional $747 million from ESSER III. That’s the third relief bill that was passed in March. Applications for that money are expected to be ready for schools in July.

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