LAUSD board approves $2.6B COVID-19 relief plan

The Los Angeles Unified school board on Tuesday, Oct. 26, adopted a plan for spending approximately $2.57 billion in additional COVID-19 pandemic relief funding from the federal government.

Combined with approximately $2.27 billion in spendings on similar dollars which the school board approved in June as part of the district’s Path to Recovery plan, officials have now approved about $4.8 billion in expenditures through the 2023-24 school year to help students heal and overcome challenges stemming from the pandemic.

The $2.57 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, made available through the American Rescue Plan Act, is intended to pay for services and programs that address students’ academic, social, emotional and mental health needs, as well as opportunity gaps that existed before the pandemic and that have been exacerbated by it.

The money can also be used to fund pandemic-related health-and-safety measures.

District officials stressed that the ESSER dollars represent one-time funding, and that LAUSD will need to consider priorities beyond the next couple of years and develop budgets tied todesired student outcomes.

“We are Los Angeles Unified, and coming out of this pandemic, we have an opportunity to make public education better than it was when it went into the pandemic,” interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said.

Of the ESSER III dollars, as this latest round of relief funding is referred to, an estimated $1.7 billion, or 67% will be spent to address lost instructional time during the many months of distance learning. This includes paying for an extended school year, summer school programs, instructional aides to help students develop literacy and math skills, extra supports for special education, enrichment programs, college and career readiness programs and other expenditures.

About $412 million, or 16% of ESSER III funds, will go toward health-and-safety measures such as paying for facility upgrades, custodial staffing, personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and vaccinations.

Another $429 million, or 17%, will be spent on various expenses, including wellness supports for students and staff, social-emotional learning, professional development for staff, family engagement.

The school board approved the plan 6-1.

Board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin, who cast the “no” vote, said in a text after the meeting that the district has struggled to fill the approximately 6,000 positions authorized under the Path to Recovery plan for this school year, with more than 2,500 positions still unfilled. Given that, she said she could not support budgeting approximately 1,400 additional full-time positions as prescribed under this week’s supplemental Path to Recovery plan.

The plan will now be submitted to the Los Angeles County Office of Education for its review and approval. LAUSD officials noted that the plan can be amended as needed.

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