Northam directs $220M in federal money to public schools for COVID-19 preparedness

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Every K-12 public school in Virginia will receive more federal money for COVID-19 preparedness and response, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday.

Northam directed more than $220 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Support (CARES) Act funding to all 132 school districts. The school divisions will receive $175 per pupil based on fall enrollment, with a minimum of $100,000 for a division. The money will go toward testing supplies, personal protective equipment, sanitization and technology for distance learning.

“Students, teachers, principals, and parents are going to great lengths to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic amid a new school year, and we must do everything we can to support them,” Northam said in a statement. “This additional $220 million in federal funding will give our schools the resources they need to continue operating and provide Virginians with a world-class education, whether safely in person or remotely from home.”

The governor’s reopening guidelines for school required schools to maintain social distancing, which led many schools to adopt hybrid schedules that include in-person and remote learning. Some schools opted to operate fully remote for the fall semester.

“We applaud Governor Northam’s commitment of more than $220 million in federal CARES Act funding to our public schools,” Dr. James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, said in a statement. “COVID-19 has brought huge new challenges for our students and educators, and members of the Virginia Education Association have made clear throughout the pandemic that additional, necessary services require additional funding. This action will help keep our students safe, healthy, and learning.”

The new funding will be in addition to $66.8 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funding and $587.5 million in CARES Act money already directed to schools.

Both chambers of the General Assembly are debating a new budget that would allocate about $95 million to schools from revenue generated from a tax on skilled gaming machines. This money would be used to backfill the education funding losses that were a result of lower sales tax revenue.

Although Northam supports the funding, he has threatened to hold up the budget bill if the General Assembly is too prescriptive with COVID-19 money instead of giving the governor discretion.

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