NH seeking $37 million in federal K-12 education relief

The NH Department of Education is seeking $37 million in coronavirus-related federal relief for the state’s K-12 schools as part of the CARES Act passed by Congress last month. The federal aid will be used to support the expansion of neighborhood and charter schools’ remote learning capacity, with a focus on underserved communities and student groups and is part of the $82.5 million in anticipated education-related federal relief funding for New Hampshire. 

This includes access, devices, applications, and training for students, families and educators, as well as other activities deemed necessary by the NH Department of Education, according to the federal grant application. The $37 million can be used to reimburse districts for remote learning-related expenses since March 13, when many districts began planning for a potential transition to off-campus learning. 

The grant application also includes a provision that would require districts and schools to use “high quality diagnostic tools” to assess student learning gaps, and provide student-level performance data to the NH Department of Education. 

The federal aid expires in 2021, but the NH Department of Education has been working on setting up the infrastructure to support the administration of the funds since mid-March in order to disseminate the money as quickly as possible. 

“I can tell you that we are working ahead of schedule so that once we receive that funding at the SEA level, which is the state education agency level, we have a few things that we’re responsible to do with that. But we will pass that through as quickly as possible,” Commissioner Frank Edelblut told NHPR in an interview in April.

CARES Act funds will be allocated to districts based on a formula set by the federal government, but the state has flexibility in determining how the funds can be used. The federal aid must be approved by the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR), which is responsible for the oversight of coronavirus relief and stimulus funds. 

The $37 million does not include an anticipated $8.9 million in federal relief as part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, or an anticipated $36 million in federal relief for New Hampshire’s higher education institutions. The Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund is intended to support districts and education-related groups — like child care and early childhood education institutions — that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus. 

New Hampshire is anticipating additional grant opportunities through the US Department of Education to “create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.” Part of these opportunities include “Rethink K-12 School Models Grants,” which are intended to help virtual learning and include microgrants to families. 

On March 15, 2020, Governor Chris Sununu signed an executive order that required all public schools in New Hampshire to transition to a remote learning model in response to the national coronavirus pandemic. The order has been extended through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and districts have been working with students, families, and educators to continue learning at home.

Reaching Higher NH has been sharing stories of districts’ transitions to remote learning as part of a new series. Read more: