The Chelsea School District is expecting some additional funding help

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From an increase in the foundation allowance to COVID-related special funding, the Chelsea School District has a better idea of what it can expect when it comes to budgeting for the upcoming school year.

With recent legislative decisions coming out of Lansing, The Sun Times News reached out Michelle Cowhy, CSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Administrative Services, in an effort to better understand what the district is expecting to see.

Cowhy said the district has received or plans on receiving the following funding from state/federal sources:

  • State Aid Foundation Allowance increase of $562/student. She said this money can be spent on any type of general fund operational cost.
  • Federal ESSER II Formula which is about $217,095. She said this is restricted as to how it can be used and it generally needs to be used for COVID-related expenses.
  • Federal/State ESSER II Equity which is about $817,905. This is a special allocation that back in March was connected to getting back to in school learning by a certain date, which Chelsea chose at the time not to move forward with and stuck with its own back to the classroom date, and therefore forwent the funding. Cowhy said Chelsea now does qualify for these funds. She said this is restricted as to how it can be used and it generally needs to be used for COVID-related expenses, however, the district is still waiting on guidance and are hoping for more freedom as to how this can be used.
  • Federal ESSER III Formula which is about $487,563. She said this is also restricted as to how it can be used and it generally needs to be used for COVID-related expenses.
  • Federal/State ESSER III Equity which is about $2,026,337. This is also restricted as to how it can be used and it generally needs to be used for COVID-related expenses. However, Cowhy said they are still waiting on guidance and are hoping for more freedom as to how this can be used.

As a reference, Michigan was approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) for nearly $390 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

The MDE said the $13.2 billion ESSER fund provides emergency relief funds to address the impact that the COVID-19 public health crisis has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the United States.

ESSER funding was included as part of the $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Cowhy said the ESSER Formula money is distributed to districts based on their Title I allocation, which is based on the district's free and reduced lunch counts. She said Chelsea is a low free and reduced district; therefore, it receives less money than other districts.

She said the ESSER Equity money is federal money allocated to the state that then gets allocated to the districts.

“It is intended to make up the difference between what districts receive in federal formula money and the amounts available,” Cowhy said. “In the case of the ESSER III money they are trying to get districts to have received $1,093/student between the formula and the equity.”

The Sun Times News reached out to State Rep. Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, who also represents Chelsea, to ask about the special funding that back in March was tied to a specific date for getting back to in-person learning.

“Part of the supplemental education funding that the Legislature passed in March had partisan political strings tied to it, which is why the governor rightly vetoed it,” Lasinski said. “The funding bills we recently passed had no similar conditions, which is why they received broad bipartisan support. I was proud to vote yes on House Bills 4411 and 4421, which will bring over $23 million in state and federal funding to the Chelsea School District, including the equalization payment that other districts received in March. This shows that, when we work together, we can do great things for the people of our district and the people of Michigan.”

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