Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office announced in a news release Friday where $30 million in federal COVID-19 relief will go toward education in Oklahoma.
The money, which comes through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, was part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which was described as an “emergency block grant” for governors to address individual states’ needs, according to the news release.
The state will put $12 million toward the “Learn Anywhere Oklahoma” initiative, which reportedly will help districts access digital content, including advanced placement courses. Stitt said the initiative will help ensure that classes continue despite limitations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During these unprecedented times, while we must take the necessary precautions to slow the spread of the virus and keep our vulnerable populations safe, we must also prioritize our students’ learning,” Stitt said. “Learn Anywhere OK accomplishes both goals.
“Additionally, should an outbreak occur, this content will allow learning to continue in a distance learning format.”
The program reportedly will be hosted through the Oklahoma Supplemental Online Course Program, where districts can purchase programming and receive support for best distance-learning practices.
In a statement, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister commended the support for the program as part of schools’ ongoing needs in the pandemic.
“There are many pressing needs, including internet connectivity and PPE for teachers, staff and students,” Hofmeister said. “But without question the ‘Learn Anywhere’ initiative will help students all across Oklahoma continue learning during a school year filled with challenges and uncertainties.
“In the midst of the pandemic and its huge impact on education, it is critical that students have greater opportunities for virtual instruction. Many schools are certain to have building closures, both short-term and long-term, over the course of the upcoming school year.”
Friday’s announced relief package also included $10 million for the “Stay in School Funds,” which offer aid for low-income families whose students’ private school attendance could be threatened by COVID-19-related financial reasons.
Hofmeister previously stated her opposition to these private school scholarships and reportedly left them out of her own proposition for how to use relief money, instead wanting to see the bulk of it put toward better connectivity for school districts.
The Oklahoma Private School Accrediting Commission will oversee the program’s distribution to families, who may apply for relief beginning Aug. 1, according to a news release.
The remaining $8 million from Friday’s package reportedly will offer more than 5,000 low-income families access to grants to buy curriculum content, tutoring and technology through the “Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet” program.
Those $1,500 grants will be distributed through Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, a partnering nonprofit, on a first come, first served basis.