The CARES Act and Wisconsin’s K-12 Climate

CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic:

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act provides $2.2 trillion of relief for those impacted by COVID. Of this, CARES allocates about $30 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Soon, Wisconsin will need to make decisions on how to spend the huge influx of federal funds on its education.

Analysis: WILL’s CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic explain the two main pots of money in the CARES Act that Governor Tony Evers and local school districts can soon access from the U.S. Department of Education. Szafir and Sobic make recommendations on how Wisconsin policymakers can tailor the federal money to meet the needs of our state during the COVID crisis. Opportunities exist to immediately do the following:

  • Provide teachers with resources for improved distance learning

  • Defray the cost of online education to schools and low-income families

  • Encourage summer learning camps and literacy programs so students are more prepared for 2020-2021 school year

  • Purchase supplies to sanitize and clean school buildings

  • Help graduating high school seniors who have to take remedial college courses next year

Why It Matters: Schools and communities are facing significant challenges right now. Many Wisconsin schools, across all sectors, were not prepared to switch to distance learning with such short notice. They must work to ensure students will still receive meals and help families access resources like broadband and devices to do schoolwork. These problems jeopardize student learning and risk further widening the racial achievement gap, already the largest in the country. The CARES Act was passed to provide relief and assistance to combat the impact of COVID so the allocation of K-12 dollars must be considered quickly, collaboratively, and transparently.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools