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K-12 schools in Montana getting $400M from COVID-19 relief bill

Includes $13M for private, home schools
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Posted at 3:41 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 19:00:47-05

HELENA — Montana’s K-12 public schools will get a whopping $382 million from the federal Covid-19 relief bill signed into law Thursday – and private and home schools will get nearly $13 million as well.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who supported the bill, said Friday the money will help schools “fully re-open for in-person learning” and get students back on the proper learning track.

“In my conversations with Montana’s teachers, administrators and parents last year, one thing has been clear,” he said in a statement. “Our schools need targeted assistance to help them get our kids safely back in the classroom full-time and help so many who have fallen behind this last year.”

The money for school is part of an estimated $2.7 billion in the massive aid bill that’s headed for Montana.

State Superintendent Elise Arntzen said while local school districts will ultimately decide how to spend the money, federal guidelines dictate that a big emphasis will be on helping students who’ve fallen behind on their education.

“These federal dollars emphasize healing from the disruption caused by the coronavirus and focus on enhanced learning for summer and after-school opportunities,” she said.

Montana also has an additional $170 million in federal funds for schools from the Covid-19 relief bill passed by Congress in December.

Here’s a closer look and a breakdown on the money for schools in the bill approved this week:

  • About $334 million will be distributed to public school districts, based on how many lower-income students they have. Schools with more lower-income students will get more of the money.
  • Of those funds, at least 20 percent must be used to address “learning loss” programs, which are extended school years, summer school or after-school programs.
  • The rest of the money can be spent on a variety of items outlined in earlier federal guidelines on Covid-19 relief.
  • About $36 million of the money will be distributed by the state Office of Public Instruction, possibly through grants. Certain parts of this money also are proportioned to summer and after-school programs.
  • About $2.5 million is earmarked for assistance to homeless students.
  • An additional $12.8 million will be available for private schools and home-schooled students affected by Covid-19. This money will be distributed by OPI – and comes on top of another $12.8 million in the Covid-19 relief bill passed by Congress in December.