TRENTON – State education officials have completed work on a draft plan for spending a windfall in federal coronavirus pandemic recovery funds, including the distribution of nearly $2.5 billion in funds directly to local districts.

People have until next Thursday, June 3, to email public comments on the 57-page draft plan. The final version of the plan has to be submitted to the Biden administration by the state on June 7.

“You will see that our proposal would leverage these federal funds to meaningfully boost school district capacity to develop and implement high-quality interventions that address the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students and educators,” said acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan.

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“We address federal requirements to invest in the academic impact of lost instructional time, summer activities and activities taking place beyond the traditional school day,” she said.

School districts and charter schools are in line to receive a combined $2.4 billion, with nonpublic schools also splitting $73 million. More money goes to schools with big concentrations of low-income students, as the formula is tied to a district’s federal Title I funding – but provides schools with far more aid.

Newark will get $177 million, followed by Camden at $115 million. The Lakewood, Paterson and Jersey City school districts also get more than $100 million each. The smallest grant is $19,222 to West Cape May Elementary School, which enrolls 97 students.

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At least 20% of the money must be used to address the impact of "learning loss" on students – perhaps things such as summer and afterschool programs.

The balance can also go toward cleaning supplies and HVAC upgrades, technology to address the digital divide and prepare for future school closings, programs to support students set back emotionally by the pandemic; and more. Some must be spent on assessments to see what help students need.

“Through this partnership with the federal government, we’re going to work to ensure that every district has the resources it needs to fully get back to where it should be,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Districts will have through September 2024 to spend the money.

New Jersey is allocated around $2.765 million for K-12 education through the American Rescue Plan, the third batch of federal money going into the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

Ten percent of that – around $276 million – goes to the state, reserved for grant programs that address learning loss, summer programs and afterschool activities.

“These funds represent a significant investment in the capacity of our state and our school districts to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 over the next three years,” Allen-McMillan said.

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Districts apply to receive their money directly from the federal government. The state released a template districts can use to comply with requirements that they have a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction. That plan must be submitted to the state and posted online locally by June 24.

The federal money can’t be used toward bonuses, merit pay or similar expenditures, unless related to disruptions or closures related to COVID-19; subsidizing or offsetting executive salaries and benefits of individuals who are not employees of the school district; and expenditures related to state or local teacher or faculty unions or associations.

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