/Private schools, colleges get $20 million in pandemic relief

Private schools, colleges get $20 million in pandemic relief

Nonprofit Mississippi News Legislators have approved $20 million in federal funds for pandemic relief to private K-12 schools. This is despite some concerns that public money should remain with public schools. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) gave $1.8 billion to the Mississippi Legislature to fund pandemic response, government services and infrastructure improvements. After many rounds of discussion, the Legislature approved $10 million in grants to private K-12 schools as well as private colleges and universities. To be eligible for the grant, private schools must be members of Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (or accredited by another regional or federal accrediting agency). A school cannot receive more than $100,000 to fund infrastructure improvements related to water, sewer and broadband or any other allowed infrastructure projects under ARPA. Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven) said that she voted against this measure because she believes the state shouldn’t give tax dollars to private schools. She said, “It’s an option to go to private school, and they’ve other funding options that our public schools do not have.” Nancy Loome, of The Parents’ Campaign, agreed with that sentiment and called the passage of the bill “tremendous disappointment”. Loome stated that she believes that public funds should be used to fund public schools and not private schools that choose the children they wish to educate. “Currently, Mississippi’s public schools are severely underfunded, which is a problem for everyone. Loome pointed out that the loan program for public school infrastructure projects, which was created this session, is not a grant program like this bill. Every public dollar spent on private schools could be used on public schools. Private colleges and universities will receive funds based on their enrollment. Schools can apply for grants under ARPA to help with water, sewer, broadband and other infrastructure projects. Blue Mountain College and Blue Mountain College are the seven private universities and colleges named in the legislation. Jason Dean, director of Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges and Universities was happy to see that these schools were recognized. He said they serve 13,000 students in the state. He said that there are many private colleges that have been serving students in the state for decades and some of their buildings “are literally falling in”. “The money cannot be used to build new buildings. However, it can go towards water, sewer and HVAC systems which is a huge one.” Dean explained that colleges can defray energy bills by upgrading HVAC systems. This gives them more money to spend on other things. Both grants must be distributed to schools by December 2024, and used by December 2026.