Biden sends $10 billion to schools for COVID testing as part of largest K-12 federal funding push
President Joe Biden’s administration announced Wednesday it’s sending $10 billion to help schools expand COVID-19 testing for students, teachers and staff as part of the latest push to return more schools to full-time, in-person instruction.
The announcement was paired with a state-by-state breakdown from the Education Department of how the $122 billion for K-12 schools will be divided. The money for schools comes as part of the latest $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package Congress passed last week.
The new money represents the largest one-time federal increase in K-12 funding. It includes another $40 billion for higher education and $7.6 billion to help children who have special needs or who are homeless or being educated on tribal land, according to the Department of Education.
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States can use their share of the $122 billion to help schools pay for protective equipment, building improvements, additional staffing, more Wi-Fi hotspots and additional learning opportunities, such as summer school, to help children catch up academically after a largely disrupted year.
“The extraordinary steps the department is taking to get these resources to states quickly will allow schools to invest in mitigation strategies to get students back in the classroom and stay there, and address the many impacts this pandemic has had on students — especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a news release Wednesday.
New money for COVID-19 testing in schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send $10 billion to states to help schools implement testing programs for students, teachers and staff. The funding boost will support testing as part of an overall COVID-19 mitigation program to allow schools to safely reopen.
The funding announced by the Biden administration will support screening programs to test students, teachers and staff who show no signs of the virus, a measure aimed at preventing spread among individuals who don’t know they’re infected. The screening program is in addition to regular testing of students, teachers and staff who show symptoms or are known contacts of infected individuals.
Because such testing programs will be new for many schools, the CDC and state and local health departments will help schools establish testing programs, officials said.
In the guidance for school reopening updated by the CDC in February, the agency did not recommend or encourage testing students and staff in buildings as a mitigation strategy. Some schools and districts across the country have taken that step independently, but the methods and variety of tests and frequency of testing are wildly divergent, USA TODAY reporters have found.