by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The federal CARES Act set aside $2,953,230,000 for governors to use to support educational institutions affected by COVID-19 closures. North Carolina will receive $95.6 million from this Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER). General Assembly leadership suggested that Gov. Cooper use the money to supplement the $350 teacher bonuses approved in Senate Bill 818,
PART III. ADDITIONAL BONUSES ENCOURAGED FOR CERTAIN PUBLIC SCHOOL EMPLOYEES SECTION 3.(a) For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, in recognition of additional instructional days needed for the 2020-2021 school year due to the coronavirus disease 2019 and the five additional instructional days required pursuant to Section 2.11(b) of S.L. 2020-3, the General Assembly encourages the Governor to allocate funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to provide a one-time, lump sum bonus of six hundred dollars ($600.00) for each person employed in the public schools who is classified as one of the following:
(2) Instructional support personnel.
(3) Noncertified personnel.
Cooper administration officials do not believe that GEER funding could be used for that purpose.
In fact, it’s not clear how Cooper intends to use GEER dollars. In the certification and agreement for funding documents submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, the Cooper administration offers few details about how he plans on using the money.
Governor Cooper, in collaboration with state K-12 and postsecondary education system leaders, is currently drafting a plan for how he will utilize the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to best meet the educational, health, and safety needs of K-12 and postsecondary students during the pandemic.
They repeat the following passage three times:
…The Governor’s intent is for the GEER funds to be used in ways that will be complementary of the other federal CARES Act funding that LEAs and IHEs have received…
Other states appear to offer much more detail in their certification and agreement for funding. For example, Tennessee will “use its GEER funds to support high-quality literacy materials, teacher training videos, and additional implementation supports for use on the devices and platforms supported by ESSER [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief] funds.”