Federal coronavirus aid arrives for Georgia schools

Students file out the front door at Worth County Primary School on May 9, 2019. They are too young for state standardized tests, which start in third grade. But the K-2 school in Sylvester, Ga., used federal grant money to purchase special reading tests to gauge their progress, and on this day, they had their final tests of the year. (The walls are covered with words to emphasize the focus on literacy.) Like all Georgia school districts, Worth County is now getting more federal dollars — an additional $1.1 million — towards coronavirus-related costs.
Students file out the front door at Worth County Primary School on May 9, 2019. They are too young for state standardized tests, which start in third grade. But the K-2 school in Sylvester, Ga., used federal grant money to purchase special reading tests to gauge their progress, and on this day, they had their final tests of the year. (The walls are covered with words to emphasize the focus on literacy.) Like all Georgia school districts, Worth County is now getting more federal dollars — an additional $1.1 million — towards coronavirus-related costs.

More than $400 million in federal emergency aid will flow to public schools in Georgia after state education officials accepted money from the CARES Act coronavirus relief fund Monday.

Most of the $457,169,852 will go directly to the state’s 180 school districts and to state-run schools, including those under the Department of Juvenile Justice. Thirty state-chartered schools will get money, too.

The Georgia Department of Education is withholding 10% for a rainy day fund should districts need help in the future for COVID-19 costs and is keeping half a percent — or nearly $2.3 million — to administer the grant.

The $411,452,867 being distributed now is being divvied using the formula for sending out the federal Title I dollars that subsidize school districts with low-income students.

District shares are based on the number of such students, so larger districts with more poverty will get the largest amounts.


COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS IN GEORGIA


DeKalb County gets the largest allotment at $33.6 million, trailed by Gwinnett County at $32.3 million. The City of Decatur, by comparison, a small district with relatively low poverty, will get $321,028, the smallest allocation among the metro Atlanta districts inside the Perimeter.

The amounts have shifted since preliminary calculations ahead of the state’s recent application for the money. DeKalb, for instance, had been anticipating $34.5 million while Gwinnett was expecting $33.3 million. Both will get less. Atlanta Public Schools, meanwhile, had anticipated $21 million and now gets $22.9 million.


>> How is school going for your family this spring, and what will you do if it's more of the same in the fall? Tell us about it at CoronavirusEducation@ajc.com


Among the state charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated, Georgia Cyber Academy got the largest allocation with $3.2 million. The online school, which had about 9,000 enrolled as of the last official count in the fall, is the largest public school in the state. Georgia Connections Academy, another online school, got the second-largest allocation among the charters, with $790,124.

The money can be used for any cost associated with the pandemic since March 13, from purchasing computers to training teachers. It can also be used to offset cuts to the state budget, though it will likely be nowhere near enough for that.


RELATED: Budget cuts could mean $1.6 billion less for schools


Last week, Gov. Brian Kemp told officials to cut 14% from their budgets, and schools were not spared. The state education agency tallies the proposed cuts for the fiscal year starting in July at $1.6 billion, more than many expected, including state school Superintendent Richard Woods, who oversees the agency.

"We had planned 9%, so we have to make up that difference,” he said at the state school board meeting over the phone Monday when the federal aid was formally accepted.

The Georgia General Assembly, which is on hiatus during the pandemic, would have to approve the proposed cuts.


MONEY FOR SCHOOLS

District — amount

Atlanta City — $22,948,079

Buford City — $480,143

Cherokee County —$3,706,437

Clayton County — $17,458,566

Cobb County — $16,038,221

Decatur City — $321,028

DeKalb County — $33,585,162

Fayette County — $1,167,534

Forsyth County — $1,705,290

Fulton County — $18,300,111

Gwinnett County — $32,259,639

Marietta City — $1,657,552

Source: Georgia Department of Education