US secretary of education rejects GOP plan to invest more money into schools that didn't shut down

NOW: US secretary of education rejects GOP plan to invest more money into schools that didn’t shut down

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Lawmakers will have to go back to the drawing board to discuss what to do with millions in federal funding for school districts.

It comes after the U.S. Department of Education rejected a GOP proposal that sought to invest more money into schools that kept their classrooms open during the pandemic.

The federal education agency did approve 95% of the state's $1.5 billion plan to distribute to schools to help them recover from the pandemic, but they're asking lawmakers to figure out a new proposal to spend a remaining $77 million in relief aid.

"This support will allow them to pursue innovative approaches to address the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, and to begin the process of addressing the new normal for learners, their families, our educators, and our communities," said State Superintendent Jill Underly.

Republican co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee wanted to use $77 million toward school districts that didn't close during the pandemic.

U.S Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a letter to Underly the GOP plan, "explicitly exclude[s] the students who lost the most in-person instructional time as a result of the pandemic."

Cardona added the proposal conflicts with federal requirements and told DPI they should have held a public hearing on JFC's plan.

State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chair on JFC, called the rejection political.

"We've always pointed out there's additional costs to being in-person and doing that hard work that's best for kids," said Born. "That's what we've been trying to focus on and unfortunately they're still trying to put the money in other places."

Republicans will now have to work with the DPI to figure out an alternative spending proposal to invest the remaining funds in schools.

Over the next several weeks, Born said he will work with state education officials to address this issue.

"It's unfortunate they want to play politics and do this, but we'll work with DPI to come up with a plan to invest these funds in schools," said Born.

Underly echoed those remarks stating DPI is committed to working with legislative leaders and the USDE.

"We all share a mutual interest in doing what is best for Wisconsin’s students, and that means supporting our learners as thoroughly and expediently as possible," Underly said.

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