The new stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump this week is bringing more than just either $600 or $2,000 to every adult; it is also bringing billions of dollars to help America’s public schools.

Superintendent of Public Instruction for Montana, Elsie Arntzen spoke to KGVO news about the unprecedented monies that will be flowing into the state for education during the pandemic.

“This is for repair and relief for our schools that have been hit with the virus and it has affected every one of our 800 schools that we have across our state,” said Arntzen. “The President did sign it Sunday evening, and it looks like there was quite a lot of money that will be coming to education completely.”

Arntzen broke down some of the numbers.

“That's about 82 billion in total,” she said. “But in the K through 12 realm, we pretty much have about 54 point 3 million, which looks like to Montana, this will be a relief of four times more than what we received last time in March,” she said. “And that means we're going to be receiving $160 million, and this is more than Montana has ever received ever in any kind of a relief package from Congress.”

Arntzen said Congress acknowledged how public education has struggled during the epidemic, and is funding schools in response.

“It's four times more than we've ever had before going to very similar flexible means to help,” she said. “We understand that there may have been learning loss. There's also some things that can happen for infrastructure that were not in the very first deployment in March of money where schools can have better airflow and quality of air into their buildings. A lot of our school buildings are old and deteriorating. So a lot of these dollars can be funneled into building and structural changes.”

Arntzen said Congress has also relaxed the rules over how and when these and previous funding packages can be spent.

“Schools have until 2022 to be able to expend these funds,” she said. “So they still have the governor's funds, and that was also extended. Originally, they had to have spent the funds by December 30, but this act of Congress went ahead and extended that date to 2022 as well. In addition, our dollars, the first CARES Fund release of 41 million that we received, that is also is going to be going out until 2022. Plus, now these brand new dollars, which are four times more than what we received in March.”

Arntzen said the new federal spending is unrelated to the state funding that public schools will receive through the upcoming Montana legislative session, which is tied to enrollment averaged over a three year period.

Schools in Montana are operating in a wide variety of formats at this time. Some are in school full time, while others are operating in a hybrid format, and still others are in full-time remote learning at home, as each independent school district has implemented.

 

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