CARES Act funds to school districts is a move in the right direction
By Ben Rodgers
The collaborative effort between villages and school districts during this pandemic is something to behold.
The final expenditure period is now closed for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and with that four villages and one town have donated nearly $194,000 to four school districts with leftover allocations from the federal program.
The Ashwaubenon, West De Pere, Pulaski and Howard-Suamico school districts are all benefactors thanks to Ashwaubenon, Hobart, Howard, Suamico and Lawrence.
Credit is due to State Sen. Rob Cowles, who at a legislative linkage session in Howard-Suamico earlier this year said he would work with the Wisconsin Department of Administration, which manages the program called Routes to Recovery, to make sure these transfers were above board.
All cities, villages, towns and school districts in Wisconsin had a CARES Act allocation.
However, it was quickly discovered that school districts serve far more people than the municipalities where they are allocated and therefore had a greater need.
Moreover, the funds school districts received were often less than for municipalities.
The crux is cities, towns and villages are able to make purchases for school districts with leftover funds and donate the items to the district.
Hobart, for example, was allocated $156,000 in CARES Act funds and used about a third, so it was able to purchase $40,000 worth of items each for the Pulaski and West De Pere school districts.
At the same time, West De Pere was allocated roughly $190,000 and quickly went through all of those funds.
With the donation, West De Pere was able to receive document cameras for teachers and devices for students it would not have normally been able to afford.
Pulaski was able to receive $40,000 worth of monitors and stylus pens, again items it would otherwise have been unable to afford.
Howard-Suamico was able to increase Wi-Fi at elementary schools to keep cars from being backed up, replace air filters and cafeteria tables, and acquire state-of-the-art electrostatic sprayers.
The Village of Howard donated more than $73,000 worth of items to the local school district, because it was eligible for nearly $320,000 in CARES Act funds and was going to fall well short of that amount.
All of these donated items are also kept off school district tax rolls.
If anything, the efforts by Ashwaubenon, Hobart, Howard, Suamico and Lawrence show a collaborative effort is the best approach to combating this virus.
However, therein lies the rub. Throwing money at this pandemic will help mitigate the spread, but only marginally.
It’s vitally important our schools are as safe as possible for students and staff.
But the community needs to work together, just like these villages and school districts.
The community needs to start making common-sense decisions that will get the numbers trending in the right direction.
Last week, Brown County received a new classification for this pandemic, “critically high.”
Wisconsin as a state, and even Green Bay, has been shown in national news in a less-than-flattering light because of the spread of COVID-19.
I urge everyone to start making common-sense choices to avoid large gatherings, wash your hands frequently, social distance and wear a face covering in public.
We can’t spend our way out of this pandemic, and we can’t wait for herd immunity as friends and family members are packing intensive-care-units to near capacity.
It’s refreshing to see a joint effort to make things as safe as possible for students and staff, but it won’t be enough.
Please do your part.