Editors Note: Because the plandemic funding is a continually moving target the figures cited in this article may be already obsolete. The federal government is continually adding more funding to provide relief brought on by the plandemic. School Districts across Montana are holding school board meetings where the citizens are trying to find out what the plan is for families and children going into the 2021-2022 school year.
By Tim Ravndal
Elected and appointed officials across Montana are now being tasked with funding decisions based on the plandemic. Schools across the state including non public schools are charged with complying with the provisions of the new pot of money brought forward by the plandemic.
School district officials are now working forward to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year. School funding is traditionally allocated through the Montana legislature. Explained in 31 pages, the Average number belonging (ANB) is the foundation of estimating school funding based on the number of students.
In addition the average citizen is provided a definition of ANB in 2-9-370MCA. That Montana law clearly defines this funding process, or does it?
On December 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021. (CRRSA) This federal pot of money is at the center of every level of government funding. CRRSA added $9,695,000,000.00 to the national debt. This pot of CRRSA funding included $28,379,759.00 delivered to Montana from the federal government due to the declaration of the plandemic.
In March 2021, the third plandemic stimulus bill dubbed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) was signed into law, providing public school districts across the country a whopping $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (or ESSER III) funds.
In every ARP ESSER State plan, a State educational agency (SEA) must describe how it will use the funds it reserves under sections 2001(f)(1)-(3) of the ARP Act. The State plan takes a close look at exercising evidence-based interventions along with multiple community based needs and goals.
How that funding actually gets distributed can become very confusing. The Townsend School District Board held a meeting regarding the safe return back to school (SRBS) process on June 22nd 2021. This special meeting was called because of the plandemic policies needed to be extended in order for the district to be eligible for $1.5 million in ESSER funding established by CRSSA. All federal plandemic funding in the school funding cycle comes delivered with strings attached.
A local citizen of Broadwater County, concerned about her children’s education, attended the June meeting. The board up to one hour before the original time slated changed the time by one hour without notice. Everything leading up to the actual meeting began to be called into question. Open meeting laws protecting public participation were left hanging in the balance. Even though the notice and purpose of that special school board meeting was obscured, this local mom attended. When we asked why a mother of a 5 month old baby attended the meeting, she stated:
“I believe that part of the problem of why this year escalated to people losing God given rights is because people have sat back and told themselves “this doesn’t concern me so I’ll let this play out until it does.”Bailey Meckley
We went to Broadwater County Attorney Cory Swanson to seek his input on an alleged open meeting violation, and we were told that the county attorney’s office has nothing to do with the Townsend School District. We later found out from the past school superintendent that all legal matters are dealt with through the Montana School Board Association.(MTSBA)
On August 10th 2021 the Townsend School District met again to discuss the new school building project, funding, and the school district policy. The cost of the building project of $41,166,632 comes primarily from a $40.9 million bond voters approved in February. That bond fund is locked in to fund construction of the new elementary school and make improvements to Port Townsend High. We may need to do more research to see if the high school changed its name from Broadwater High to Port Townsend High. To our knowledge they are still “Bulldogs” “We Stand for correction on this”
The new school construction project is moving along and representatives of the construction company were on hand to provide the school board an update on the project. Using federal funds and/or the local bond funding can get tricky. Making sure that the project costs are in step with the bonding, the board approved putting a few hundred thousand of the funding in place where authorized.
There was further discussion regarding change orders to add more funding as needed. The contractor representatives cautioned going outside of the original contract based on the federal prevailing wage requirements. If caution is not used, there could be a need to completely open up a new contract requiring the opportunity for bidding, complicating the original contract as was bid.
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was put in place in 2020 by USDA due to the plandemic. SFSP was welcomed across Montana to provide lunches for children displaced by the plandemic impacting child care across the state. The board applauded the ability to have this extra funding for the community.
The Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief Fund (ESSER), was put in place under the CRSSA to address the impact the plandemic has had and continues to have on elementary and secondary schools.
Plandemic funding comes in a couple of different packages to help school districts across Montana. ARP ESSER programs are used to fund SR1, SR2 & SR3 programs. Those that are not regularly following the school funding programs at this point are scratching their heads asking what is this all about. Acronyms are regularly used and anyone outside of the administrative process is quickly lost.
The ARP Act represents the third round of funding to come through the ESSER fund, and Montana’s allocation totals more than $382,000,000. In previous rounds, Montana received more than $41,000,000 (ESSER I) and $170,000,000 (ESSER II). Through the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS), the state also received nearly $20 million for home and private schools. Two-thirds of the ESSER III funding was already released to schools in May; now that United States Education Department (USED) has approved the State Plan, the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) can begin releasing the remaining one-third, or roughly $126 million.
Another $2.75 billion was set aside for non-public schools as well under Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (or EANS) funds. The non-public schools have experienced a surge in enrollment while public schools have been seeing a reduction in attendance due to the Plandemic. Past Superintendent of Townsend School District Eric Wilkerson stated that because the public school system is an integrated part of family child care, he expected enrollment for the next school year to rebound some.
ESSER III and EANS funds are supposed to help schools reopen quickly and safely, as well as address the months of significant learning loss by students during the plandemic. Based on one educator assessment last October, students in public education settings are at least a month and a half behind in reading and three months behind in math. The question is asked how will this funding fix that?
The School Board is authorized to declare that a state of emergency exists within the community under 20-9-8MCA. An emergency declaration issued by the school board authorizes the School District to take extraordinary measures to protect students and staff while delivering education services in a manner authorized by law. The method and location of instruction and related educational services shall be implemented in a manner that serves the needs of students, their families, and staff and preserves the School District’s full entitlement of funding.
To apply the funding at the district level, there must be a plan in place. That plan prior to the beginning of the school year, must be in compliance with the US Department of Education (USED) guidelines of the ARP ESSER program. The school district must complete a GAP analysis to identify top needs caused by the plandemic by August 24th 2021. The district received a 15 plus page plan template from OPI that is created by Qualtrics Survey Software. This template provides the district an outline for completing the plan. Qualtrics who provides this information to the school administrators is owned by a German giant SAP who bought Qualtrics for $8 billion in 2018. This company is based in Utah in the technology corridor known as Silicon Slopes.
A GAP analysis process allows the school district to determine how to best achieve the goals set by the administration. It compares the current state with an ideal state or goals, which highlights shortcomings and opportunities for improvement. Looking at this from a government level, analysis paralysis is often referenced in filling the gap in getting things done. The plan and analysis process is time sensitive and as noted above deadline of August 24th 2021 is quickly approaching. The school district must have the goals set forth in a plan that must be approved before the funding ends in September 2024.
Don’t leave out the process of completing the eGRants application for the ESSER funds due September 1st 2021. What is an eGrant? We would have to open a new chapter to delve into this program that has many tentacles reaching into the funding mechanisms in place.
While Townsend School District Superintendent Suzie Hedalen mentioned the plandemic policy status in passing, none of the elected school board members opened the policy on record up for discussion. In the packet of information provided to the public on the policy, there is an outline of school policy updates provided by the Kaleva Law office. In addition, participation in non-profit organizations like the Montana School Board Association (MTSBA), Montana Digital Academy (MDA), Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and don’t forget Montana Retired Educators Association (MREA) all bellied up to the trough looking for a piece of that plandemic funding pie.
Due to changes made by the 67th legislature, there are the required updates needed to be incorporated into school district policies. Again none of the policy changes were discussed at the August 10th meeting even though it was on the agenda.
The policy adoptions prescribed by the law firm released on August 5th 2021 reflect the changes made by the Montana Legislature. Those changes include but are not limited to; SB15, HB246, SB109, SB18, HB68, HB702, SB157, SB 283, HB254, HB68, SB72, HB192, HB267, SB99 it is here that a whole new chapter may need to be brought forward by the school board for discussion.
Brad Racht the Middle School Principal brought forward concerns over the policy and process in place. The policy is based on the contingency that there is no real way to plan ahead. The reality that the plandemic is a changing paradigm almost by the hour, responding to the plandemic dynamics is near impossible.
Mr. Racht is concerned about the expectations placed on administrators, and what is the process policy regarding contact tracing going to look like in the new school year.
Superintendent Suzie Hedalen also agreed that the moving target is a difficult process to work through. She also stated that the mandate for students riding the bus must wear a mask, does not make a lot of sense. The school bus mask mandate is in part brought forward by the Department of Transportation on public transportation. One of the school board members pointed out that the school bus is not really public transportation by definition so the mandate remains in question. Since the school policy has rescinded the order for masks in the school in part due to HB702, the requirement to wear a mask to ride the bus to school does not make sense.
There were no citizens in physical attendance of the meeting so it is uncertain if the citizens of Broadwater County outside of the school administration are aware of what is going on before opening for the new school year. The district recording of the meeting on YouTube is archived for the citizens of the district to view. It does not appear that the live recording presented the citizens an opportunity to engage in the process, as there were no calls for public comment acknowledged by the administrator of the recording. Anyone wishing to view the entire August 10th 2021 School Board meeting recorded by the School District, here is the link to that recording.
So…we took a stab at helping the citizens understand the plandemic impact on education in the Townsend School District. Now that everyone is clear on SRBS, OPI, ANB, MTSBA, MDA, DPHHS, SEA, CRRSA, ARP, ESSER, SFSP, EANS, USED, GAP SR1, SR2, SR3, eGRants, SB15, HB246, SB109, SB18, HB68, HB702, SB157, SB 283, HB254, HB68, SB72, HB192, HB267, SB99 there is certainly no reason for anyone to question the funding or the path of future public education here in Montana.
The established policy that is in place at this time for the “Safe Return To School” supporting documents is available here.
The School Board will meet again on August 19th 2021 where they will move forward to adopt their plan prior to the first day of school.
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