Looking back at 2021 education grants and forward to 2022 in the pandemic era

Federal funding has helped education transform in ways that seemed unfathomable in the past


COVID-19 has taken so much from us over the past two years, especially from students in K-12 schools. However, the federal government has provided unexpected COVID funding of billions of dollars for schools. Fortunately, this funding has helped education transform in ways that seemed unfathomable in the past, such as providing free meals and computers to all students.

The latest relief proposal by the current administration will provide universal Pre-Kindergarten to all three and four-year-olds, which will be the largest expansion of education programs since the addition of high school over 100 years ago.

COVID relief funding began in March 2020 with the CARES Act, which delivered $30.7 billion for schools. In December 2020, the COVID Relief Package was signed into law and provided $82 billion in grants to education. These funds helped children safely return to in-person school in the spring of 2021 in many states and continue remote learning in other states.

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The American Rescue Plan was signed into law in March 2021, providing $122 billion to address the many impacts of COVID-19 on PK-12 education, including:

  • Investing in resources to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC's) K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff and students safe.
  • Avoiding devastating layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing.
  • Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools.
  • Funding crucial summer, after-school and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
  • Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff, to keep students and staff safe and healthy.
  • Providing for social distancing and safety protocols on buses.
  • Funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without connectivity for remote learning and supporting educators in the effective use of technology.

The Build Back Better Plan has been passed by the House, and is waiting for a vote by the Senate before it can be signed into law. As of now, the Build Back Better Plan proposes to provide the following funds to PK-12 education in 2022:

  • $110 billion for universal pre-kindergarten.
  • $300 million for the E-Rate Emergency Connectivity Fund, which will help students connect to the internet.
  • $200 million for teacher training to support the survival and viability of Native American languages.
  • $161 million for developing personnel to support students with disabilities.
  • $112 million to support school principals.
  • $112 million to develop and support high-quality teacher residency programs.
  • $112 million to create "grow your own programs" to address shortages of teachers in critical areas.
  • $112 million to create Hawkins Centers of Excellence at minority-serving institutions.
  • $600 million for grants for career and technical education programs in the next five years.

We are in the middle of our third school year living with COVID, and schools have been forced to change to keep students and staff safe. Here is a simple breakdown of education funding of the four COVID relief laws:

Non-profit foundations have also provided a safety net for schools during the COVID-19 crisis. Private funders have assisted schools in more specialized ways than the federal government is able to, and will hopefully continue to do so in years to come. Together, we can ensure the success of our students by providing funding to schools in every way possible as the world continues to change due to the pandemic.

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