Federal stimulus money will help schools combat the COVID-19 learning slide, Indiana’s former superintendent of public instruction said Monday.
Dr. Jennifer McCormick, whose term as the state’s last elected schools chief ended in January, touted the benefits of the latest aid package during a stop in Crawfordsville as part of the Indiana Democrats American Rescue Plan Tour. She appeared alongside State Rep. Mike Andrade of Munster.
The $1.9 trillion package was signed into law in March to pump additional money into states, communities and schools recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The bill passed without support from Congressional Republicans, who criticized the price tag and provisions they said were unrelated to public health.
“I will say, I give credit to our Congressional delegation — our Democrats — for voting yes on this plan. Our Republicans didn’t get there,” McCormick, a former Republican who recently switched parties, told about a dozen people gathered at Milligan Park for the event sponsored by the Montgomery County Democrats.
“The Democrats said, we get it. We need the money,” McCormick said. “It’s … not waste, it’s relief — and we needed it.”
Indiana was allotted $5.8 billion in funding through the act. The state’s K-12 schools will receive $2 billion in aid. Another $250 million will go toward expanding broadband internet across the state.
Montgomery County is receiving $7.44 million in stimulus aid. Crawfordsville was allotted $3.36 million. Local school districts will receive a total $7.7 million.
Andrade said the legislature would begin discussing how to spend the state’s portion in interim study committees this fall before crafting policy when the assembly returns in January.
“I’m telling you, the American Rescue Plan is a game-changer and it’s going to improve everyone’s quality of life,” Andrade said in his remarks.
While polls have shown broad overall support for the plan, Indiana Democrats say research shows that younger and rural people have heard the least about it.
McCormick said public messaging about spending plans could be improved, acknowledging the timing and approval process of the funds.
“And I’m sure cities and towns [are] working through layers. It’s not as simple as, here’s how we’re going to go,” she said.
The City of Crawfordsville recently hired attorneys to help decipher the plan’s language, as it did when the CARES Act was approved last year.
Local schools have announced they will spend part of their funding on remediation programs. Some teachers have received hazard pay stipends through the plan.