School districts struggling financially will soon get some relief via federal CARES Act grants from Governor Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
Oklahoma’s more than 500 school districts have already received $160 million from the CARES Act. But state leaders are asking them to prioritize specific policies to get more federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Districts can receive grants of up to $500,000 from a pool of $16 million, if they invest at least 30 percent of their initial funding in areas like increasing student internet connectivity, mental health services and science of reading training.
"As we plan for a new school year after the major disruptions we experienced this past spring, we must do all we can to ensure districts can provide digital instructional delivery and social-emotional supports to every student when needed," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said. "This is no easy task as districts grapple with budget shortfalls and various unknowns stemming from the pandemic. School leaders are rising to the challenge, however, and these incentive grants will go a long way toward helping fuel their heroic efforts."
Half of the funding will come from Stitt’s $40 million governor opportunity grant program.
The governor initially said he would spend part of that money on equal opportunity scholarships for students attending private schools. Stitt's idea, which emerged after a discussion with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in April, has been widely panned by the state's school leaders.
A spokesman said the governor and his team are still working to determine how to allocate all federal relief money.