ED gives grant for COVID-conscious schools

Julia Lucero, Staff Reporter

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced a grant program that will fund school districts being penalized by their state for enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols.  

 A press release issued Sept. 9 by the ED  says the grant program, “Project Supporting America’s Families and Educators,” is part of President Biden’s plan to combat COVID-19.  

Educators, leaders, and parents are working hand-in-hand in communities across the nation to protect school children returning to in-person learning, and the Biden Administration will do everything it can to support them doing right by kids,” the release stated. 

The grant program will use funding within the ED from Title IV, Part F, School Safety National Activities, of the Every Student Succeeds Act, according to the release.  

School board members or superintendents from local school districts that have had their pay cut for enforcing COVID-19 safety in schools will be able to apply for the Project SAFE grants. 

“Every student across the country deserves the opportunity to return to school in-person safely this fall, and every family should be confident that their school is implementing policies that keep their children safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.  

UTEP political science professor Rebecca Reid said withholding funding from schools is designed to punish schools for making the politically “wrong” decision.   

Without proper funding, schools cannot provide the equipment needed for quality education, cannot offer competitive salaries for teachers to attract and keep quality instructors, and are limited in their ability to be accessible in providing adequate resources for children with disabilities and low-income families, Reid said.   

“Failure to provide relief to these schools and communities, whether from the state or federal government, therefore ensures that these disparate impacts continue and worsen,” Reid said.  

The CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all students 2-years-old and older, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.  

“Right now local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs, talk about bullying in schools. If they’ll not help – if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I will use my power as president to get them out of the way,” President Biden said.  

Reid said the federal government has the authority to mandate masks and vaccines for people in their jurisdiction and interstate travel. They can influence state mask mandates through financial incentives and regulation of interstate commerce, and assist state response activities in public health emergencies.  

Due to these precedents, the SAFE Grant Program falls under federal constitutional powers under the Spending Clause and public health acts. The SAFE Grant also follows federal powers in education policy, where the federal government can influence education by allocating funding to districts that follow certain federal guidelines, Reid said.  

“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them. We stand with the dedicated educators doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and this program will allow them to continue that critical work of keeping students safe,” Cardona said.  

 Julia Lucero may be reached at [email protected]