WASHINGTON – Buffalo Public Schools will receive $232.56 million under President Biden's Covid-19 relief package, by far the largest share of $565.52 million headed to schools, colleges and universities in Erie and Niagara counties under the stimulus measure.
While Buffalo's windfall is smaller than the $245.1 million it was expected to get under an earlier version of the bill, it is still an unprecedented federal boost for the city's schools. Other urban school districts in the region will receive sums in the tens of millions, and even the smallest rural school districts will get boosts of nearly $1 million.
The American Rescue Plan showers money on the Empire State in myriad ways.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, shared the school aid figures with The Buffalo News late Tuesday. The figures show that in total, K-12 school districts in Erie and Niagara counties will receive $392.82 million.
"The American Rescue Plan will deliver this much-needed aid to get Western New York students back in school," Schumer said.
Federal funding is on the way for colleges and universities, too. Figures released by Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, on Tuesday show that institutions of higher education in the metro area will get a total of $172.7 million. Every major college and university in the region will receive a sum in the tens of millions, with the University at Buffalo leading the way with $63.5 million.
But the vast sum of money heading to Buffalo schools dwarfs every figure on the lists of federal aid coming to local schools, colleges and universities, even though the Senate trimmed education funding slightly from an earlier House version of the bill. Urban school districts get the largest share of federal aid under existing federal formulas that were used to calculate payments under the Biden stimulus bill.
Schumer indicated that districts with lower-income students appeared to be hardest-hit by the disruptions of the Covid-19 era, including months of virtual learning during which many students have struggled.
The so-called child allowance is just one of several poverty-fighting measures in the stimulus bill, which doubles as a thick, but perhaps temporary, extra layer in the nation's safety net.
“Everyone wants schools to reopen completely, and for our children to be able to return to the classroom, but it needs to be done in a way that is safe for students, families, educators and learning institutions,” Schumer said. “Covid brought unprecedented challenges that have cost a year of learning and development for students – challenges disproportionately felt by students of color, students from low-income families, students with disabilities and more."
It is unclear exactly how Buffalo schools will use their federal windfall. When the House passed its original version of the stimulus bill in late February, city school officials refused to speculate how the money might be spent.
" When we get it, we'll talk about it," Elena Cala, special assistant to the superintendent for public relations, said then.
Many districts are expected to use the federal funds for physical changes aimed at making school buildings safer, such as the installation of plastic barriers and improvements to heating and cooling systems. In addition, some districts may use the funding for summer or fall remedial programs to help students catch up after a year of not-always-successful online instruction.
"The idea would be to get teachers and students back in the classroom," Higgins said. "That's an objective that everybody shares. This money should be used for those purposes and other purposes to enhance the instructional capability of school districts and teachers in the classroom."
Using our conservative estimate that 824,750 locals will get $1,400 checks, the program would bring $1.15 billion to the region.
Part of that effort, Higgins said, could involve expanding broadband access for students, given that the pandemic laid bare the fact that many students don't have the kind of internet service they really need to succeed.
Much like kindergarten-through-12th grade schools, colleges and universities will benefit from the influx of federal funds – as will their students. The stimulus legislation requires colleges and universities to use at least half of the new federal money for emergency financial aid for students who have struggled amid the pandemic.
“The pandemic has challenged college students and institutions, which are traditionally designed to bring people together in living and learning communities," Higgins said. "Struggling college students are running up against new financial and educational hurdles. The American Rescue Plan will help to ease the financial burden created by Covid and keep students on track to receive their degree.”
Here is a district-by-district breakdown of the new federal aid heading to Buffalo-area schools under the stimulus plan:
Erie County is set to get $178 million, and municipalities throughout the region will each get several million dollars.
• Buffalo City School District: $232.56 million.
• Niagara Falls City School District: $32.27 million.
• Lackawanna City School District: $14 million.
• Lockport City School District: $11.69 million.
• Kenmore-Tonawanda Union Free School District: $11.41 million.
• West Seneca Central School District: $6.18 million.
• North Tonawanda City School District: $5.67 million.
• Sweet Home Central School District: $5.66 million.
• Cheektowaga Central School District: $5.52 million.
• Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District: $4.23 million.
• Evans-Brant Central School District (Lake Shore) $3.9 million.
• Frontier Central School District: $3.85 million.
• Cheektowaga-Maryvale Union Free School District: $3.83 million.
• Depew Union Free School District: $3.65 million.
• Clarence Central School District: $3.41 million
• Lancaster Central School District: $3.29 million.
• Williamsville Central School District: $3.24 million.
• Tonawanda City School District: $3.04 million.
• Amherst Central School District: $3.03 million
• Cleveland Hill Union Free School District: $2.93 million.
• Cheektowaga-Sloan Union Free School District: $2.62 million.
• Grand Island Central School District: $2.55 million.
• Springville-Griffith Institute Central School: $2.15 million.
• Newfane Central School District: $2.03 million.
• Hamburg Central School District: $1.9 million.
• Lewiston-Porter Central School District: $1.9 million.
• Alden Central School District: $1.66 million.
• Akron Central School District: $1.64 million.
• East Aurora Union Free School District: $1.59 million.
• Royalton-Hartland Central School District: $1.52 million.
• Wilson Central School District: $1.51 million.
• Starpoint Central School District: $1.5 million.
• Iroquois Central School District: $1.38 million.
• Orchard Park Central School District: $1.31 million.
• Barker Central School District: $1.22 million.
• Eden Central School District: $1.12 million.
• North Collins Central School District: $0.95 million.
• Holland Central School District: $0.91 million.
• Erie 1 BOCES: $1.5 million.
• Erie 2-Chautauqua‐Cattaraugus BOCES: $0.9 million.
And here is a look at the money heading to local colleges and universities:
• University at Buffalo: $63.5 million.
• SUNY Buffalo State: $30.08 million.
• Erie Community College: $25.39 million.
• Niagara County Community College: $12.4 million.
• Niagara University $7.1 million.
• Medaille College: $6.51 million.