CUMMING — The Forsyth County School System has received nearly $7.5 million in federal stimulus funds to help manage COVID-19 disruption to schools, but officials say the district’s low poverty rates are unfairly penalizing its access to funding.
Since March, the Georgia Department of Education has allocated more than $2.1 billion in federal funds to the state’s 180 school districts through two rounds of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The stimulus funds are allocated based on the number of students receiving Title 1 funding tied to household income. Title 1 provides federal funds to schools with high percentages of low-income students.
High stakes testing in Forsyth County Schools will have a much lower bar for students to scale this year as the impact of a global pandemic continues to disrupt.
“The distribution of the funding is not decided by Georgia DOE or states,” said Meghan Frick, communication director for the Georgia Department of Education. “It is laid out in the federal legislation…and proportionate to the amount of Title I funding districts receive.”
Of the over $2 billion allocated to the state’s 180 school districts, 10 school systems with high Title 1 eligibility have received just under half of the total distribution.
Forsyth County Schools is the seventh largest district in Georgia with 51,000 students, but it has a relatively low number of students eligible for Title 1 services based on household income.
In contrast, the City of Atlanta Schools with a similar enrollment, but high Title 1 eligibility, has received nearly $113 million in CARES funding to date.
Forsyth Superintendent Jeff Bearden said the district welcomes any additional revenue, but he noted the district faces challenges that all districts are dealing with in a pandemic.
“As one of the few school districts that has seen an increase in student enrollment growth this year, we were disappointed that the funding was again tied to Title 1,” Bearden said. “But we are grateful for any increase in revenue we receive.”
The CARES Act funding allowed Forsyth Schools to extend 10 COVID days of leave through March 31 for staff.
The current fiscal year budget for Forsyth Schools drew heavily from its reserve funds to ensure all positions were maintained and any furloughs avoided.
The mask debate continues in Forsyth County over the issue of whether to require them in schools.
“This was a priority of our board, even with the large decreases in state and local revenues,” Bearden said.
The budget process for Forsyth Schools is underway for Fiscal Year 2022.
Public schools could see a third round of CARES Act funding under the $170 billion stimulus plan awaiting Congressional approval. Stimulus funds can be used across a wide variety of programs and activities in response to COVID-19.