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San Diego Unified schools may get $128 million in federal relief

San Diego Unified School District board President Richard Barrera is pictured in 2017.
(File)

It may plug budget holes, but schools may need more to fund learning loss and recovery efforts, some say.

San Diego Unified School District schools are expected to receive $128.1 million from the new federal relief package signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 27, according to calculations by analysts at EdSource.

San Diego County public schools are expected to receive about $389.6 million in total and California schools in general are expected to receive at least $6.8 billion, according to EdSource, a nonprofit journalism website that reports on education issues. That’s out of a total of $54.9 billion in aid going to public schools nationwide.

San Diego Unified is the state’s second-largest school district, serving about 100,000 students with an annual budget of $1.6 billion.

Parents’ group points out that 1,000 more high school students failed a course this fall than at the same time a year earlier.

Before the aid package, the district was projecting a $155 million deficit under the assumption that there would not be another federal stimulus.

This federal stimulus will help fill that budget gap, said San Diego Unified board President Richard Barrera.

“It’s critical because it will mean that we can have stability for the following year,” he said. “So you know we’re not going to need to be doing layoffs and program cuts.”

Schools can use the aid for a wide variety of purposes, not just those related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stimulus provides about four times the amount of aid that schools received in the CARES Act, the first pandemic relief package in March.

But it still falls short of what education groups nationwide say schools need to cover increased costs from the pandemic related to remote learning and reopening.

The stimulus also does not include aid for state or local governments, which Barrera said could mean that California schools will get less state funding than they had hoped for. The vast majority of school funding comes from the state.

Barrera said schools will still need more funding to help students recover from learning loss caused by school closures and the pandemic. Those efforts could include expanded summer school or hiring more counselors to help students recover from social-emotional issues caused by home isolation.

“We really think that’s where we’re going to need some additional resources beyond what we’ve always had,” Barrera said.

The stimulus is allocated to public schools based on how much schools receive in federal Title I funding, which prioritizes schools with significant percentages of low-income students. EdSource based its calculations on Title I funding levels.


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