MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Schools in Alabama have received an unprecedented amount of money to combat learning loss and other impacts of the pandemic over the past two years.
The state got roughly $3.14 billion through three rounds of federal funding.
“That’s an enormous amount of money. That’s about 12 times the amount of Title I federal funding a school would get in a year,” A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon said.
Dixon is tracking how the schools are spending that money. The website organizes data on districts’ spending proposals.
“Every district had to submit a plan, and I think some are talking about their plans more publicly than others, and that’s part of the purpose of the tracker is to make this very easy to understand,” Dixon said.
Proposals have focused on academic support, facility improvements, summer and after-school programs and technology, among other categories.
Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin says they received about $101 million. He says the money has gone toward reversing learning loss, mental health support and new laptops.
“This allowed us to really try some of the initiatives that we wanted to do, like the one-to-one, our virtual academy that we opened. Initiatives that we had in place or were thinking about doing but not necessarily having the funding for it,” Gonsoulin said.
So far according to the spending tracker, 6% of the American Rescue Plan funding for schools has been allocated in Alabama. Schools have until September 2024 to spend those funds.
But there are efforts in Congress to give some of that money to parents.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville cosponsored the RECOVER Act, which would allow states and local school districts to give unspent COVID relief money to low-income parents in the form of scholarships.
Gonsoulin says in his district, he doesn’t foresee any money being left on the table.
“With the needs that we have and the plans that we have in place, we plan on spending every penny of those monies,” Gonsoulin said.
One of the strings attached to this money is that schools have to take community input, so be sure to check out your school district’s website for its spending plan if you have any comments.