Stitt, Hofmeister announce $16 million in incentive grants to Oklahoma schools

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced Friday they have partnered to give eligible Oklahoma school districts an opportunity to apply for $16 million in emergency relief funds through the federal CARES Act.

Incentive grant funds were made available through $8 million from the Oklahoma State Department of Education set-aside amount from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and $8 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) discretionary funds. Under the CARES Act, the OSDE funds must meet “emergency needs” of districts in response to COVID-19, while GEER funds must be expended to schools “most significantly impacted by coronavirus.”

The partnership will help educators bridge the “digital divide” and strengthen distance learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we plan for a new school year after the major disruptions we experienced this past spring, we must do all we can to ensure districts can provide digital instructional delivery and social-emotional supports to every student when needed,” Hofmeister said. “This is no easy task as districts grapple with budget shortfalls and various unknowns stemming from the pandemic. School leaders are rising to the challenge, however, and these incentive grants will go a long way toward helping fuel their heroic efforts.”

Use of GEER funds to provide additional connectivity for schools is critical, according to the Governor.

“I welcome this partnership with Superintendent Hofmeister and OSDE to maximize the impact of our federal dollars on students,” Stitt said. “Digital transformation has been one of my priorities since I took office and we are working on more projects to help ensure technology is an enhancement to learning rather than a barrier.”

In order to apply, districts must have opted in on their ESSER formula funds application and commit to spending at least 30 percent of those funds in at least two of five priority areas:

  • Expanding connectivity for students to enable distance learning accentuating digital transformation (i.e., purchasing devices, hotspots, access points, partnership agreements, etc.)
  • Purchasing a Content Management System (CMS) or Learning Management System (LMS) – either a new system or services added to an existing system to support students in distance learning
  • Providing mental health supports through social and emotional learning tools for students experiencing trauma due to COVID-19
  • Providing compensatory services to students identified to be at risk as a result of the closure of school buildings in spring 2020 (i.e., English learners, students with disabilities, students needing credit recovery, etc.)
  • Providing training in the science of reading for teachers in Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, with a specific focus on delivering instruction remotely (i.e., contract with a vendor for professional development, use of programs identified through What Works Clearinghouse, purchase of curriculum or materials to be used in teacher training)

Grants will be awarded in amounts based on student enrollment on Oct. 1, 2019:

  • Up to 500 students: Eligible for up to $50,000
  • 501 to 1,000 students: Eligible for up to $100,000
  • 1,001 to 2,500 students: Eligible for up to $200,000
  • 2,501 to 7,499 students: Eligible for up to $300,000
  • 7,500-plus students: Eligible for up to $500,000

Districts will apply for Incentive Grants through the OSDE Grants Management System, and eligible expenditures must be reimbursed between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2022.

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