U.S. Education Department approves North Dakota plan for spending $305 million on schools


North Dakota received federal approval this week of its plan to spend $305 million on schools.

The funding is the last of three federal packages to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

In total, North Dakota has received $474 million as part of Congress’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.

The money was made available for schools nationwide to address the pandemic’s impact on student learning, with few federal requirements on how it’s spent.

North Dakota’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction Laurie Matzke says districts are in the process of submitting their plans for how to use those funds.

Districts have until September of next year to spend the $33 million in the first package; September of 2023 to spend the $135 million and September of 2024 to spend the final $305 million.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of staff. That’s a bit dangerous because in three years, those funds will be gone, and they’ll have to find a new way to continue to fund those new teachers and paras, but again, they’re taking advantage of the funds while we have them,” Matzke said.

Matzke says other uses of those funds could go toward infrastructure needs, like improving ventilation or getting a new boiler.

She also says much of the money is going toward after school programs, mental health supports and professional development opportunities for school boards.

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