Opinion Editorial by Stella B. House Attorney at Law, P.S.C.
According to a CNN article, entitled “What Schools Can Do With Their Covid Stimulus Money” by Katie Lobosco, CNN (Updated 8:09 AM EDT, Thu April 8, 2021), “[w]hen the pandemic first hit, the CARES Act authorized about $13 billion for K-12 schools, or about $270 per pupil. The bill passed in December delivered about $54 billion, or $1,100 per pupil, and the most recent package allowed for $128 billion in spending, that amounts to $2,600 per pupil, according to Phyllis Jordan, editorial director at a non-partisan think tank at Georgetown University called FutureEd.”
This CNN article also stated, “Not every school will get the same amount. The law directs the states to disburse the money like it does Title I funding which means more money goes to districts with a higher percentage of low-income families.” Since Clay County undoubtedly has a high percentage of low-income families, it likely received additional funding based upon that fact.
Rumor has it that the Clay County Public Schools have received $20 Million dollars in Covid/pandemic funds.
According to this CNN article, there are restrictions on how the Clay County Board of Education (“CCBOE”) can spend this money. Most of the money must be spent on Covid/pandemic-related improvements. I believe the CCBOE could and should install new state of the art air filters, heat & cool systems, cafeterias, and bath/restroom facilities in every school in Clay County with this Covid/pandemic money. I think these proposed expenditures constitute authorized expenditures and would benefit all students attending school in the Clay County Public School System.
In addition, according to the CNN article, at least 20% of the Covid/pandemic funds must be spent on summer school and tutoring programs. So, these programs should be available for all Clay County Public School students at all levels of academic achievement. Now, truly, no student should be left behind.
According to this CNN article, “[t]he law included some provisions to make sure states and localities do not spend less on education from their own budgets than they normally would because schools are getting more federal money.”
I’m unsure if or how this provision is being enforced and/or monitored by the federal government. I believe an audit would be necessary to ensure compliance with this provision.
Based upon an Open Records request made by me to the CCBOE, it looks like the total “appropriated” revenue of the CCBOE for the 2021 fiscal year was $61,764, 516.49 and the total “appropriated” expenses for that same time frame were $62, 308,922.49. If all of the “appropriated” money was spent by the CCBOE, then this accounting appears to reveal that the CCBOE would have had a negative balance of $544,406.00 at the end of the 2021 fiscal year. Could that be correct?
If so, I’m unsure how the CCBOE located millions of extra dollars to relocate a cemetery and expand a high school athletic complex, as I do not believe the Covid/pandemic funds were allowed to be spent on these types of school improvements based upon the information contained in the CNN article. Was the CCBOE actually 15.5 million in the black or 16 million in the red at the end of the 2021 fiscal year?
The “appropriated” amounts are way out of line with the “actual” and “available” amounts. What does that mean? How can there be such large discrepancies?
According to the CNN article, the CCBOE should have received two rounds of Covid/pandemic funds in 2020 with the second round being approved in December of 2020 and a third round of it in 2021. So, the income listed by the CCBOE should have included the second and third rounds of it, even if the first round was received and spent prior to the relevant time frame.
I don’t have all of the answers yet. For now, I mainly have a lot of questions. Now that two incumbent school board members have opponents in the upcoming election in November, I hope the public will receive answers to these and other questions from either the incumbent members of the CCBOE or their opponents before Election Day.
About Stella B. House Attorney at Law, P.S.C.:
Stella was born and reared in Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky. She graduated Manchester Elementary School; Clay County High School; and then college and law school at the University of Kentucky. She resides and practices law in Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky, and has deep roots and family ties in Southeastern Kentucky.