State officials are looking to put another $31 million in federal CARES Act coronavirus aid into public schools in anticipation of a fall reopening, including $21 million for COVID-19 testing of Idaho school teachers and staff and $10 million for personal protective equipment. The proposals are among $51 million in additional allocations to be considered Friday by the governor’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Council, or CFAC; they’re likely to win approval. Thus far, CFAC hasn’t rejected or reduced the size of any funding proposal that has made it to the full committee.
“These proposals reflect the priority of the governor, and the governor has the major priority of getting our kids back in school this fall, but doing so safely,” said Alex Adams, Gov. Brad Little’s budget director and CFAC chairman. “And he knows a core element of doing so safely is testing as well as protective gear for schools.”
The committee still has more than $400 million in unallocated funds from Idaho’s $1.25 billion share of CARES Act federal aid. The $1.25 billion is in addition to other funding streams from the CARES Act that have gone directly to schools or other state agencies.
If the new testing and PPE proposals for schools are approved Friday, it’d bring the total CARES Act funding allocated to Idaho K-12 schools to $122.2 million — exceeding the $98.7 million in state budget cuts that schools are now facing for the year. However, the aid funds are all for COVID-19-related expenses; cuts to teacher and staff raises, for example, or other areas of education funding aren’t being made up.
Idaho Department of Health & Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said the school testing proposal is designed to cover testing each of the 43,300 staff and teachers in Idaho’s public schools four times beyond what insurance would already cover.
This isn’t the end of the proposals, he said. “The testing task force is working on recommendations for back to school testing guidelines that will include students,” Jeppesen said Wednesday in an email.
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