DOVER, Del. - Delaware schools are set to receive more than $669 million in federal taxpayer money as part of the government’s coronavirus response efforts.
The amount of money allocated to Delaware equals more than 40% of this year's general fund budget for school district and charter school operations. Under federal formulas, schools with high percentages of low-income students are receiving a disproportionate amount of the money.
Since March 2020, the federal government has provided $190 billion in pandemic aid to schools, an amount that is more than four times what the U.S. Education Department spends on K-12 schools in a typical year. The Associated Press, relying on data published or provided by states and the federal government, tallied how much money was granted to nearly every school district in the country.
The AP tracked more than $155 billion sent to states to distribute among schools since last year, including general pandemic relief that some states shared with their schools. Some districts will receive sums amounting to 50% or more of the cost to operate their schools for a year. The aid averages nearly $2,800 per student but varies widely by district and state, according to the AP’s analysis.
In Delaware, East Side Charter School in Wilmington is receiving almost $10,450 per student, according to the AP’s analysis, almost four times the national average.
Conversely, the Charter School of Wilmington, a high-performing high school that is less than five miles from East Side, and where less than 5% of students in the 2021 school year were considered low-income, is receiving only $188 per pupil.
East Side is one of four charter schools that lead Delaware in per-pupil allocations for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding. All have significant percentage of low-income students, and the majority of their students have failed to meet state academic proficiency standards for the past several years.
"While we are able to use these funds to positively impact our student body we also know that it is a direct result of the high amount of need that our families face," said Aaron Bass, CEO of East Side. "These funds have helped us aid in our efforts to provide support to our community that has been hit hardest by the pandemic."
The largest allocation for a district or charter school, almost $83 million, is going to the Christina School District, which serves about 13,000 Wilmington-area students. The Red Clay and Colonial school districts, which also serve Wilmington-area students, are slated to receive $73 million and $47.7 million, respectively, according to the AP’s analysis. Southern Delaware's Indian River district is allocated about $45.6 million.
Statewide, districts and charter schools have been allocated more than $570 million, averaging about $14 million each, and $4,183 per student.
Nationwide, the median per district is about $2.3 million.
More than $60 million in additional funding is going to the state Department of Education, and another $11 million can be spent at the governor’s discretion under a separate funding program.
Districts and charter schools have wide latitude in how to spend the money.
While 20% must be used to address "learning setbacks," the rest can be used on nearly any cost school officials deem "reasonable and necessary."
At East Side, officials plan to spend $1.8 million of the school’s $4.48 million to add air conditioning, and $956,000 for mental health staffing. Roughly $574,000 is targeted for summer school and learning loss supports, and another $493,000 for virtual learning technology.
Meanwhile, as of last week, less than $75 million of the funds allocated to Delaware has been spent.
Allocations to Delaware under the first round of funding, totaling about $43.5 million, have to be spent by the end of 2022. Second-round funds totaling almost $183 million must be spent by the end of 2023, and roughly $411 million in third-round funding must be spent by the end of 2024.
State officials said the funds will be subject to the same annual monitoring process as other federal education funds received by Delaware to ensure they are spent properly.