Orange County Schools Receive Millions in Federal Funds

March 23, 2021 Updated: March 23, 2021

Orange County school districts are set to receive millions of dollars as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), recently signed into law by the federal government.

The Santa Ana Unified School District is estimated to receive $134 million from the bill, while the Capistrano Unified School District will receive close to $40 million.

As part of the plan, the U.S. Department of Education announced March 17 that the state of California would receive more than $15 billion to uplift K-12 schools to distribute to its districts through an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program.

The SAUSD has not fully mapped out how it will best utilize the funds, a spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

“In general, the funding will help support learning loss caused by school closures, and costs associated with reopening schools,”Fermin Leal said via email March 23. “This could include funding for tutoring, after-school programs, teacher training, parent support services, purchasing of PPE, paying for retrofit of classrooms to add safety measures, etc. Funding will be apportioned by school based on student population. Larger schools with receive a larger share.”

SAUSD’s board was set to vote on whether to reopen its schools during a March 23 meeting. While it hadn’t made that decision by deadline, the federal funds could put it in a better position to do so, Leal said.

“These funds could help better coordinate these efforts,” Leal said. “It’s important to note that these are one-time funds, so everything we spend this on can’t require an ongoing cost, such as salaries.”

Other Orange County districts receiving large sums of money from the American Rescue Plan include Garden Grove Unified, which is set to receive close to $108 million. Orange Unified School District will receive $39 million, and Newport-Mesa Unified will get $28 million.

In announcing the grants for local districts, Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) said he expected the grants to help fund a safe return to school for students.

“As the father of two young children who have done remote learning throughout this pandemic, I share all parents’ eagerness to get kids back in the classroom quickly and safely,” Levin said in a prepared statement. “The American Rescue Plan provides the federal funding schools need to reopen schools safely by reducing class sizes, modifying spaces to allow for social distancing, and investing in better ventilation and personal protective equipment. It also requires schools to use a portion of the funding to help make up for lost learning with strategies like enhanced summer school.”

He continued, “We know that our kids have not received the education they deserve during this pandemic and we have a long way to go to rectify that, but I am glad that local schools will receive the federal funding they need to begin that process.”

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