Miami-Dade Schools line up stimulus spending goals
Miami-Dade public schools are taking a four-way approach in using $1.19 billion in federal funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.
In March, the school board directed Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to start planning for the funding infusion, part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.
As a result, the department designed the Covid-19 Relief Funds Spending Plan, which details four ways to use the money: accelerate learning, preserve mental and physical health, prepare for and avoid future closures, and maintain operations and retain staff.
“As a school system that values and prioritizes equity, funds will be going where the need is greatest in our schools,” says a public schools press note. Of the infusion, 93% is to be allocated “directly or indirectly to schools to impact student outcomes.”
Some 42% of the funds, $498.6 million, is to accelerate learning by dealing with academic losses created by poor learning environments through 2024, according to the website of the Covid-19 Relief Funds Spending Plan. This includes providing mobile devices for students, instructional materials for tiered interventions, eight-period day expansion for two years, hourly funds for K-12 interventionists and tutors, among others.
Mental and physical health is to get 27% of the funds, $319 million, to address anxiety and trauma that students dealt with during the pandemic to ensure their ability to succeed in classrooms. That includes resources such as employees’ Covid-19 testing, treatment and vaccination costs, mental health awareness training for staff, and operating healthcare hubs for students.
Maintaining operations and retaining staff is to receive 20%, or $241 million, of the funds. The aims is to maintain operational capacity and retain full-time employees. Efforts include “strategic redeployment of instructional staff based on student/school need,” “stipends for PD & tasks beyond the workday,” and “custodian expenses for 2020-21.”
Finally, 11%, or $130.7 million, is to prepare for and avoid potential future closures by focusing on lowering the risk of transmission at schools and preparing for distance learning. This includes cybersecurity and associated training, upgrading school network infrastructure, and upgrading systems for central office and school communications, among others.
“The stimulus funds MDCPS (Miami-Dade County Public Schools) received will constitute the primary source of investments for MDCPS over the next few years and will be carried out in phases,” says the press note. Of the five phases of expenditure through July 2024, the department is at phase I.
Charter schools also received $330 million stimulus. These tuition-free public schools that operate independently under a performance contract or “charter” agreement comprise 22.34% of the district’s student enrollment, according to the public schools’ webpage. The school board oversees 145 charter schools with over 74,852 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grades.
“The district will be overly cautious on the expenditures to ensure that the funding is correctly utilized under the outlined guidelines and to avoid unallowable expenses,” says the press note.
“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, sponsor of the resolution that ultimately led to creation of the Covid-19 Relief Funds Spending Plan for county schools.