Schools will see almost $1 billion in federal dollars

By Erica Meltzer

CHALKBEAT

Colorado’s K-12 schools and higher education institutions will get nearly $1 billion in additional federal money to offset costs associated with coronavirus response.

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday issued an executive order describing how the state plans to distribute $1.67 billion from the federal coronavirus relief bill to local governments and other institutions. The distribution includes a combined $510 million for K-12 and $450 million for public higher education institutions.

This aid is in addition to $121 million for K-12 education and $173 million for public and private higher education institutions distributed directly by the federal government.

The announcement comes as the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee works to make $3.3 billion in cuts to finalize the 2020-21 state budget, amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. The committee is scheduled to take up the education budget on Tuesday, with committee members considering cuts of roughly 5% to K-12 schools and around 7-8% to higher education. Many other state departments have suffered larger reductions.

Money from the federal relief bill, formally known as the CARES Act, is separate from the state budget process and doesn’t spare lawmakers from having to make these cuts, but it does relieve some pressure.

“It doesn’t solve our budget problems,” said state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, an Arvada Democrat and member of the Joint Budget Committee. “It does soften the blow for some things.”

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