KULR8: MT K-12 schools to receive over $380M to aid in reopening, getting students on track

MONTANA – U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced in a press release Friday, Montana’s K-12 schools will receive an estimated $382 million to help fully reopen schools for in-person learning and get students back on track as part of the COVID relief package signed into law by President Biden.

The funding will help schools address health and safety concerns to keep students, teachers and staff safe while providing significant resources to help address learning loss among students who may have fallen behind due to the pandemic.

“In my conversations with Montana’s teachers, administrators and parents over the last year, one thing has been clear: our schools need targeted assistance to help them get our kids safely back in the classroom full-time and help so many who have fallen behind this last year,” Sen. Tester said. “This infusion of resources will help get K-12 students across our state back in class and ensure they have the support they need to thrive, all without breaking the bank for taxpayers or local communities.”

Over the past year, Sen. Tester said he has held hundreds of meetings with Montana’s teachers, administrators, parents and local officials to solicit input about what Montana schools need to make it through this crisis, and fought to ensure the COVID relief package would provide the support schools need to fully reopen safely and make sure no students fall through the cracks. Of the $382 million to be allocated by the state, at least $19 million is specifically designated to address learning loss.

In addition, a minimum of $3.8 million will be available for summer enrichment programming and at least another $3.8 million is set aside for afterschool programs to ensure students have access to the help they need to get caught up.

Last week, following Sen. Tester’s efforts, school teachers and staff in pre-K-12 schools and childcare programs became eligible to sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

Montana teachers and administrators praised Sen. Tester for his work to secure the funding:

“We are thrilled to get continued support and help by these funds,” Anaconda third grade teacher Brian Tesson, said. “They are providing our students with abundant opportunities in achieving their education.”

“I appreciate Senator Tester’s work to get teachers vaccinated in our state, and keep our schools open,” Fergus High School’s Luke Brandon said. “As a teacher and a union representative, I was very disappointed that Governor Gianforte’s administration removed teachers from Phase 1B. I and the members I represent want nothing but to be in classrooms with our students, and Senator Tester has helped make that possible.”

“I am so grateful that we will be getting the funding we need to adequately support students and teachers during this unprecedented time in education,” East Helena fifth grade teacher Jenny Murnane said. “Thank you to Senator Tester for working so hard to make sure schools will be able to purchase much needed technology and essential supplies to make sure every child has access to the education they deserve.”

“The Montana Rural Education Association is deeply appreciative of the ESSER III funding package for K12 education. Previous assistance from the federal government has helped schools address the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 that came into every community in Montana ultimately impacting all public schools,” Dennis Parman, Executive Director of the Montana Rural Education Association, said. “Rural schools have worked hard to get their schools open and keep them open through the progression of the pandemic. This most recent package will assist schools make a full transition into the years to come and address the immense disruption to the teaching and learning process all the while ensuring the safety of students and staff and protecting the local taxpayer.”

“Montana’s public schools have done some amazing work over the last year on behalf of students and families in the face of challenges from COVID-19,” Lance L. Melton, Executive Director of the Montana School Boards Association, said. “Congress’ passage of the American Rescue Plan will further that work, helping Montana’s public schools modernize ventilation systems to reduce transmission of COVID and other infectious diseases in public school settings, advance learning and close opportunity gaps for students and improve the effective use of technology in support of high quality learning.”

“On behalf of School Administrators of Montana and the Montana K-12 education community, we appreciate the allocation of funds to our schools under the American Rescue Plan,” Kirk J. Miller, EdD, Executive Director of the School Administrators of Montana, said. “Thank you to Senator Tester for being in communication with us in developing the plan for the request of funding for our schools to truly mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the education of Montana’s students to ensure we are providing a quality education to the children served by our public schools in communities all across Montana.”