Montana Public Radio

Private School CARES Funding Now Up To School Districts

Jun 25, 2020

The U.S. Department of Education is changing its guidance on how federal coronavirus relief funding for public school districts will be shared with private schools.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will send roughly $41 million to Montana’s public schools. Earlier this year, there was debate about how much of that money federal education officials wanted to pass through public districts to support private schools.

That decision is now up to school districts.

CARES Act dollars are being delivered through a federal program. That program normally provides extra funding to public districts based on the total number of low-income students within their district boundaries. The formula requires public schools to provide support to private schools - based on those school’s count of eligible low-income students.

The Department of Education originally told school districts that formula would change under the CARES Act. Public schools would now be required to calculate private school support spending based on total student enrollment. The new formula would have increased federal relief funding for private schools.

On Thursday, the Montana Office of Public Instruction announced federal education officials are now allowing districts to follow the traditional funding formula or the original guidance under the CARES Act.

This change comes as Montana’s districts are beginning to receive federal relief funding. State education officials say about $1 million has reached Montana school districts so far.