MADISON -- The CARES Act passed by Congress created the Education Stabilization Fund which provides federal funding to our institutions of higher education (IHEs) and K-12 local educational agencies (Local Education Agencies or LEAs). The CARES Act also provides funding to support library services. Wisconsin schools and libraries are eligible to receive $174.7 million in total to be distributed by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
Last Wednesday, DPI submitted its request and plan to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) which outlined how funding will be distributed. This plan includes distributing funding in a manner that ensures each LEA receives a minimum level of support, increasing capacity for and access to high quality online instructional resources, providing training to educators regarding online learning, and expanding the capacity of staff for student mental health services. Rep. Nick Milroy (D-South Range) released the following statement in support of DPI's proposed plan:
"Education as we know it has been completely upended in the face of this public health crisis. Our students, educators, and administrators need our continued support as they adapt to the challenges of this new learning environment. It is essential that our schools have the resources they need to continue providing students with a high quality education and to support students during these trying times. That is why it's crucial that the Joint Finance Committee approve DPI's proposed funding for our schools. The education community in Wisconsin has always been hardworking, innovative, determined, and resilient. This is evident now more than ever as these individuals are presented with unprecedented challenges. Education must remain a top priority in our state. I am confident that this funding will provide our schools with the support they need to succeed in these difficult circumstances."
The JFC must approve an increase to DPI's budget authority levels in the various appropriations it administers in order for DPI to proceed with this plan. If there are no objections to the proposed plan by May 12th, DPI can increase their spending authority and distribute these critical funds to our schools. An objection to the plan by the JFC could delay the ability of DPI to quickly get this much-needed funding to our schools. The federal Department of Education has indicated they can approve plans within three days, expediting access to these necessary funds.