More than $1 billion in federal relief money went to Kansas schools; new numbers show how it’s being spent

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Kansas schools received about $1.4 billion in federal relief money. On Tuesday, Kansas school board members voted to allocate roughly $15 million to school districts to training teachers in literacy and math, two areas that faced setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the state received about $831 million in federal relief money, allocating about 90% directly to school districts for tools to help prepare and respond to the virus. The state set aside the other 10% and half of those remaining dollars were earmarked to help address learning loss. The $15 million allocated Tuesday was part of the second round of emergency assistance funds for public and non-public schools.

“We’re talking about having a good process, executing that process, using the money from the federal government gives us for the pandemic to really try to reach out and form better partnerships, and help those kids learn,” Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson said.

Watson delivered an annual report that pointed to learning loss especially as students and teachers struggled to adjust to remote learning. The numbers showed significant changes in enrollment, absences and test-taking.

According to the state’s figures, about 476,435 students are enrolled in K-12 schools in the state. However, it is down by about 15,000 students compared to before the pandemic. Education officials noted it could be due to more students enrolling in virtual schools or homeschooling.

The numbers also showed increased rates of chronic absenteeism, especially among marginalized populations. About 17.54% of students have missed school for more than 10 days at a time. From 2019 to 2021, there was a nearly 4% increase. A spokesperson for the state’s education department said they had not identified the reason behind the trend.

Another figure showed parents who refused to let their child take a state exam more than doubled now sitting at 1,964.

Watson compared the pandemic to a “storm” during his speech and said the impact of the pandemic would be looked into years down the line.

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