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What Education Funding Looks Like in a COVID World

What Education Funding Looks Like in a COVID World

We are looking at several parameters driving our state’s budget that we couldn’t even see on the horizon at this point in 2020. The term COVID-19 first appeared in state budget language and in financial reports in February 2020 and has continued to drive our overall budgets and State Aid. The unprecedented movement of students from traditional education environments to virtual ones has caused a drastic change in State Aid allocations and will be a driving factor in traditional district and charter budgets for several years.  

Just before the end of the calendar year, the second CARES Act was signed into law with federal money being sent to public schools to help counteract COVID-19's negative effects on state budgets. It’s incumbent on schools to use the money in accordance with CARES Act guidelines and as the OK State Dept. of Education (SDE) administered it. Opinions abound about how the money can be used, but you will have to submit your budget and work with SDE to get the budget approved.  

The CARES Act funding must be carefully managed. If the district’s or charter’s budget is to be stable through the end of the year, we advise using the money as frugally as possible and keeping in mind the funds don’t have to be fully expended until September 2023. This enables the first and second CARES Acts funding allotments to be spread over three fiscal years. The SDE and the governor's office also received education funds. Each governor's office must spend part of the money on private schools.  

The state budget will be interesting going into next year. There is already a reduction of $60,000,000 in allocations available in the 1017 Fund, and the state is looking at a $645,000,000 budget shortfall. The result will be a difficult budget for the legislative leaders this year. On the positive side, our budget shortfall isn’t $1,400,000,000 as we originally thought. The point? This is probably not the time to spend extra money on projects or extra staffing.  

If you saw President Biden’s executive order from Friday, January 22, FEMA was ordered to help schools reopen. We aren’t sure what that exactly means for Oklahoma schools. It might mean an open disaster declaration, which might be used for building improvements such as HVAC units, windows or ways to insulate the school from outside visitors. A true disaster declaration could mean the grant process is opened for safe rooms, safe environment schools or other bigger ticket items. We just don’t know yet. The USDA has received a similar order for food programs.  

We aren’t advocating everyone start writing FEMA grants or start calling up your local FSA office, but it is good to keep a watch on these funds. We will probably see a third CARES Act later in the spring, but there is no way to know what to expect. Our goals need to be readying for a long, slow economic recovery and protecting our allocated funds as best we can.  

Andy Evans

Director, Finance

Andy serves as the Finance Director for OPSRC. In this role, he provides help in financial and business-related areas for schools. This includes budgets, managing cash flow, Estimate of Needs, federal programs and general service to aid in the effective use of district resources. Additionally, Andy serves as a resource in customizing budget spreadsheets, projection sheets, and other financial tools essential to administrators in maintaining their district’s financial health.

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