January 21, 2021

Quick Facts on the New Federal Stimulus: What to Expect in K-12 Education

By Krista Kaput

In late December, the federal government passed a $900 billion federal stimulus bill, which will provide vital support for education needs that have grown over the course of the pandemic. Overall, $82 billion will go toward education: 

  • $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, 
  • $22.7 billion for higher education, and 
  • $4 billion for governors to spend at their discretion.

Here, we highlight what this will mean for Minnesota students and schools. 

How much will Minnesota’s K-12 schools receive? 

Of the $54.3 billion allocated for K-12 schools, Minnesota will receive $588 million. Most of this—at least 90%—will go directly to local districts and charter schools through the Title 1 formula, which is based on the number of low-income students the school serves. Districts will need to decide how to best invest in supporting students during COVID-19 recovery. (You can see estimates for how much each district will receive here.) 

While districts will need to act quickly to expand interventions as soon as possible, they can develop programs that last over multiple summers and two full academic years, with a spending deadline of September 30, 2023. 

How can schools spend stimulus funds? 

Schools have fairly broad discretion on how to spend these funds, within a general set of parameters tied back to the impact of COVID-19. Allowable uses include:

  • Measuring and addressing learning loss; 
  • Providing students with internet and technology to help with distance learning; 
  • Efforts to help students from low-income families, students with special needs, English learners, homeless students, students in foster care, Indigenous students, and students of color; 
  • Summer or after-school programs; 
  • School building upgrades and repairs for reducing COVID-19 transmission; and 
  • Mental health services.

To fully support students’ academic and social-emotional recovery, districts will likely need to take action on each of these. Local leaders should build from a strong needs analysis, that is grounded in both data and input from families, when deciding how to effectively prioritize and invest in research-backed best practices. 

Will all funding go directly to schools and districts? 

While 90% of the funds go directly to school and districts, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) may reserve up to 10% (approximately $58.8 million) to launch statewide initiatives, replicate promising practices, and address critical gaps. This could allow Minnesota to invest in pilot programs across districts, for example, building on and supplementing local efforts. These funds are restricted to ensure they support programming—MDE can only reserve 0.5% ($2.9 million) for administrative costs. 

Governor Walz will oversee an additional $61.4 million

  • $19.5 million for discretionary grants to help K-12 schools and colleges that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and 
  • $41.9 million to help independent schools that serve primarily low-income students and that have been most affected by COVID-19. 

While the first pot of money can be used for a wide range of emergent needs, as identified by the Governor, the law is very prescriptive about what the funds for independent schools can be used for. They can not be used for tuition or scholarship expenses, and must be directed toward the following COVID-related needs: 

  • Education and support services to measure and address learning loss;
  • Personal protective equipment; 
  • Expanded capacity to administer COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; and 

Educational technology to help students, educators, and staff with remote or hybrid learning. 

Other Education Supports 

In addition to these K-12 funding streams, there were a number of provisions in the stimulus package that will support youth and families more broadly, including: 

  • $10 billion for child care; 
  • $3.2 billion for broadband internet for low-income and unemployed families; 
  • $250 million for Head Start; and 
  • $818 million for the Bureau of Indian Education and other outlying areas. 

Furthermore, the bill provided an additional $28 million for the research department in the U.S. Department of Education and codified a one-year delay of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

Your Voice Matters

State and district leaders will likely act fast when deciding how to allocate these federal dollars, and it’s critical that they hear from parents and community members about their immediate and long-term needs. These funds have the potential to support innovative approachesextended day, extended year, intensive summer programming, high-dosage tutoring, and morebut the impact is not a given. With heavily decentralized decision-making, it is critical that local parents, students, and school boards provide feedback and ask questions on how the money should be used.  

To measure the impact of these investments and ensure future resources are targeted to the schools, communities, and students with the greatest need, it will be essential to gather and track meaningful data. We will be following these efforts and will continue to provide updates.