Idaho’s K-12 stimulus plan still unapproved as other states get the go-ahead

(UPDATED: 10:47 a.m. Wednesday, with a response from the State Department of Education.)

The feds have approved seven plans for spending the latest and largest pot of stimulus cash for K-12 schools, but Idaho’s plan is yet to get the nod.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday that six states and Washington, D.C., gained approval for their plans to spend “ESSER III” dollars, the third round of one-time Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.

Idaho wasn’t on this list, and it’s unclear why. The State Department of Education says the review of Idaho’s plan was likely pushed back, because Idaho submitted its plan 10 days late after it was granted an 11-day extension beyond the June 7 deadline.

Idaho’s plan must be approved before it can access the final third of its $440 million in ESSER III money, carved out for K-12 schools. States received two-thirds of their money in March.

The feds have received 40 plans, but have approved only seven, Education Department Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten told reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

Some states’ plans were not approved because they failed to “(engage) a diverse range of stakeholders” or “deploy evidence-based interventions to support the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic,” said Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary. The Education Department is requesting more details from states whose plans were not approved. No plans have been rejected outright, Rosenblum said on the conference call.

It’s unclear whether Idaho’s compliance with those benchmarks, set by the law that created ESSER III, has been reviewed yet.

Idaho was initially expected to submit a spending plan on June 7, but the state requested and received an extension until June 18, saying it needed more time to evaluate and edit the proposal. Idaho submitted its plan June 17 after the State Board of Education voted to approve it the day before. SDE spokesperson Kristin Rodine said Wednesday morning that “the submission delay likely had an impact on the review timing, and Idaho is among 33 state plans that have not yet been approved.”

The Education Department “is reviewing the plans expeditiously and is in contact with states to ensure their plans meet all necessary requirements in order to access the remaining funds,” the department said in a news release, but Idaho agencies say they haven’t been contacted yet, so Idaho’s plan may not have been reviewed yet.

SDE hasn’t received an update from the Education Department as of Wednesday, Rodine told EdNews by email. Neither had the State Board as of Tuesday, board spokesman Mike Keckler said.

The U.S. Education Department did not respond Tuesday afternoon to a request for comment from EdNews.

If Idaho’s plan has in fact been reviewed but not approved, the state can still gain access to the money by working with the Education Department to get its plan up to federal standards.

Seven entities can now spend all their coronavirus relief funds:

  • Arkansas.
  • The District of Columbia.
  • Massachusetts.
  • Rhode Island.
  • Texas.
  • South Dakota.
  • Utah.

Check back later today as we will seek more details or comment from national or local officials. 

About Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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