Miami-Dade County Schools plan best use of $1.1 billion stimulus
Roughly $1.1 billion in new federal stimulus funds is likely to come to Miami-Dade Public Schools, and the district this time wants to do a better job spending the money – and accounting for that spending – than it did with prior pandemic aid.
Last week, the county School Board directed Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to start planning for the funding infusion, part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act President that Joe Biden signed into law this month.
Mr. Carvalho by May 14 is to schedule a workshop to discuss the district’s funding apportionment and how the funds may be used. The meeting will also include a review of earlier allocations to the school through the March 2020 Cares Act and December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Mr. Carvalho must also lead the creation of a system for quarterly reporting to the School Board on all spending of new stimulus funds and make a summary of that information available “for easy public access” on the district website, the item said.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides a blend of individual and organizational aid, including $1,400 in direct payments to people who earn $75,000 or less yearly, $350 billion to state and local governments, $14 billion toward vaccine distributions and $130 billion to help elementary, middle and high schools reopen safely.
Florida will receive $7.4 billion in schools-specific funding, and Miami-Dade Public Schools – the largest school district in the state – is expected to get about 15% of that.
“As the ultimate authority of the nation’s fourth-largest school district, the School Board must take bold, unapologetic and deliberate steps to promote and maintain accountability, integrity and transparency in developing a cohesive yet comprehensive plan for the use of funds allocated to the district through the American Rescue Act of 2021,” said School Board Vice Chair Dr. Steve Gallon III, the item’s sponsor. “This will be a prudent and pragmatic approach to ensuring that we are ahead of this allocation and the related expenditures.”
Dr. Gallon’s item refers to the new stimulus money as “unprecedented funds” that will help the district to “enhance its capacity to mitigate and address the unprecedented adverse impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had…”
The item further notes studies that anticipate “learning loss will be greater among low-income, Black and Hispanic students – a demographic highly concentrated in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and whose anticipated academic, social and emotional needs exacerbated by the [pandemic] in large part … generated the unprecedented amount of federal funds.”
The “hidden collateral damage of the pandemic may not be realized for years, decades or even generations,” Dr. Gallon said. “But help to our most fragile and vulnerable students is on the way.”
To maintain “accountability, integrity and transparency in the operations of the school district,” the item said, “the School Board must continue to work collaboratively with the superintendent in developing a cohesive yet comprehensive plan” for using the money.
The plan should be an improvement over how the district handled previous stimulus dollars, the item said, as “circumstances surrounding the district’s response to the new pandemic and related issues … did not provide an opportunity for the School Board and superintendent to engage in prudent, pragmatic and policy-driven decision-making regarding the use of” Cares Act funds.
“Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t [follow the money],” School Board member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall said. “We know that’s why we’re paid the big bucks – to keep our eyes on [it].”