State bureaucrats are hoarding federal funds meant for religious schools

Unelected bureaucrats within the state Education Department have dragged their ft on spending crucial COVID aid funding for Catholic and different nongovernment-school youngsters, undermining the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the state Legislature to ship for all our state’s schoolchildren and doubtlessly dumping the problem onto the lap of the governor amid a management transition.

The funding, generally known as Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools, was approved months in the past. First Team Trump after which Team Biden, joined by Congress, handed EANS measures to assist all schools reply to COVID, particularly in shouldering pandemic-related studying loss, in addition to sanitization provides, private protecting tools, improved air flow, bodily obstacles and remote-learning tech.

While public schools obtained far higher flexibility in how they might use funds and which schools had been eligible, religious and impartial schools had been additionally purported to obtain cash. Funding stays critically wanted and deeply appreciated.

Given ideological bias in opposition to religious and personal schools in some quarters, securing EANS was a heavy raise in Congress. In each the 2020 and 2021 fights, Schumer expended beneficial political capital to push for the funds, in opposition to the needs of some members of his personal get together who wished to focus solely on public-school youngsters; the nonpublic college group praised him for the actions.

Unfortunately, the senator’s efforts and the efforts of state legislators to chop by means of the paperwork and get youngsters the assist they want are being stymied. The state Education Department has opted for the same old pink tape that entangles authorities applications. Acknowledging how slowly state authorities usually strikes, the state price range authorized in April included language permitting the state Education Department to bypass the same old onerous and time-consuming contracting guidelines, in order that expedited contracts could possibly be put in place and ship companies to our youngsters this summer time and when college resumes in September.

But that inexperienced gentle apparently issues to not the pencil pushers on the state Education Department, who will quickly face implementing a second spherical of EANS funding — all of which needs to be expended by means of the identical expedited contracting course of.

What’s extra, the feds gave the states solely six months to course of the help earlier than the cash reverts to the governor, who would have wider discretion as to its use. The state Education Department might have averted the delay in implementing the primary spherical and will definitely want to take action for the second spherical within the coming months. Sadly, the company’s will to take action stays questionable.

If the state’s foot-dragging sounds acquainted, it’s as a result of simply within the final couple weeks, Schumer needed to step in to demand the state pace up federal rental aid funds to tenants and landlords. Surely, it should be irritating to the bulk chief to see his house state regularly delay wanted funding to his constituents — funding for which he fought so laborious.

At this level, until Schumer as soon as once more personally and efficiently steps in to demand the cash be correctly administered by the State Education Department, it is going to be as much as both outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo or his successor, Kathy Hochul, to do the correct factor by Catholic, Jewish and different religious-school households and see that our youngsters get the assistance they deserve. The disaster in Albany has solely made this predicament much more unsure, additional jeopardizing the prospect of this help reaching its meant beneficiaries: our college students.

The pandemic doesn’t discriminate. Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and independent-school youngsters suffered simply as a lot as these in public schools and are entitled to the aid that elected officers have approved. Having been let down by unelected state staff, our households are relying on Schumer and the governor to proceed to make sure that all college students are handled pretty and that companies get to those youngsters immediately.

Kids ought to come first, not bureaucrats’ priorities.

Deegan is superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of New York.

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