The coronavirus stimulus bill: the stakes for schools

The $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill working its way through Congress includes more than $30 billion to prop up education.

It’s unclear how much of that money would go to Idaho schools.

The bill would create a $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund. Here’s where it would go.

A higher education fund: The largest chunk, roughly $14 billion. And that money, in turn, is carved up in several ways — with more than $6.2 billion going into the institutions directly and more than $6.2 billion going into emergency student financial aid, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported Wednesday.

“While this bill will certainly be helpful to colleges and universities during this challenging time, it remains far below the total costs associated with the pandemic,” Robert Anderson, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, said in a Wednesday memo to state higher education leaders.

Money for K-12: Up to $13.5 billion. Some of that money could be used for student Internet connections and Internet-ready devices, Education Week reported Wednesday. Connectivity is a key issue, in Idaho and other states, as educators abruptly shift to online learning as the outbreak shutters brick-and-mortar schools.

In letters Monday, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra urged the Idaho congressional delegation to support the bill. “Ensuring that our local districts and charter schools have the ability to continue to pay their employees and have the funding they need to continue critical services for students is vital, and this stimulus package will provide much-needed stability.”

Ybarra spokesman Scott Phillips said he had no immediate estimate on how much of the K-12 money would go to Idaho. But the head of the Washington, D.C., group that represents state K-12 leaders hailed the compromise bill.

“States are facing mounting costs in dealing with this unprecedented crisis as they focus on meeting the needs of their students, teachers, staff and communities,” said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “CCSSO and state chiefs have made sure congressional leaders were aware of those pressing needs.”

Money for governors: About $3 billion. Governors would have the discretion to put their share of the money into K-12 or higher education.

The stimulus bill also has other education implications.

College graduates would get a break on student loans. Payments would be suspended through Sept. 30, without interest or penalty.

For states — and their students — the bill could equate to fewer standardized tests. The bill would give the U.S. Department of Education additional authority to waive testing requirements, the linchpin of state accountability plans required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Idaho has already received a waiver, and will not administer the spring Idaho Standards Achievement Test in math, English language arts and science. It’s part of a larger plan to waive school rules and requirements, with Idaho K-12 students home through at least April 20.

The stimulus bill passed the Senate Wednesday on a 96-0 vote. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted yes. The bill still must pass the House.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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