3 Things K-12 Education Leaders Need to Know about Federal Stimulus Funding

Federal stimulus funding for education is at an all-time high right now. Additionally, many states will also be increasing their funding, meaning many districts will have increased resources for the next 2–3 years. As district leaders emerge from a year of education triage and look to take advantage of this opportunity to make changes to their education systems, here are three things to know.

1. There are three federal stimulus packages that factor into your funding equation.

In the past year, there have been three federal stimulus packages that have major implications for education funding. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, passed last March, provided $30.7 billion in education relief, with $13.2 billion designated for K-12 schools, and $14 billion for higher education.

The Coronavirus Response Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, or CRRSAA, passed in December 2020 and supplied $82 billion for education, with $54 billion designated for K-12 schools and $22 billion for higher education.

Most recently, the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, was signed into law a few weeks ago and is most significant of these COVID relief bills. Here’s why…

2. The American Rescue Plan Act is the single largest federal investment in public education.

At a staggering $170.3 billion for education total and $125.4 billion for K-12 schools, the ARPA provides an unprecedented of funding for education.

To put ARPA in perspective, the regular US Department of Education budget is almost $70 billion, and that includes the higher education budget. If you remember the one stimulus package passed during the 2009 recession, it was less than half of what these three stimulus bills provide.

3. This level of federal funding for education likely won’t come around again.

The ARPA passed the Senate through a once-a-year budget process called reconciliation, which only requires 50 votes for passage, instead of the usual 60 to break a filibuster. Given the strict party divide on this bill, plus the reconciliation card has been played for this year, this will likely be the last major federal investment we see in the foreseeable future.

Now, I have been known to own up to any wrongful predictions and eat crow, but this level of federal funding has never existed before and most likely will not come around again. Look at it as one-time money that you have at least three years to spend — and there is great flexibility in how you use it.

School district leaders should take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the education system they want — not just the one they had — and bring meaning to the incredible sacrifices of students, families, and educators during this devastating year.

Working for social impact & improving student learning outcomes at Bob Wise LLC. Former West Virginia governor, congressman & president of @All4Ed. @bobwise48