The Hawaii Department of Education is devoting $16 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds for summer learning programs, including helping seniors get their needed graduation requirements and buying Chromebook and iPads for use by students, according to a breakdown of expenditures.

The funds for summer learning include $6 million for “school-based summer learning hubs” geared at students who are at risk of falling behind, $4.3 million for school-based support for students with disabilities and $5.5 million for the purchase of 10,000 technological devices, including 2,500 iPads and 7,500 Chromebooks.

Another $160,000 is being spent on credit recovery to help high school seniors fulfill requirements for graduation, plus student and teacher licenses and online teacher training, while $100,430 will be spent retrofitting five vans to create mobile learning hubs to reach students in remote areas.

The DOE is also reserving $13,380 for an internship program that will offer 15 four-week internships within the department.

Fears of the spread of coronavirus prompted the DOE to keep classrooms closed following spring break in March and revert to all-remote learning until the end of the school year on May 28. No grades were issued in the fourth quarter, with a student’s final score determined by their third-quarter standing.

That left hanging many students who needed the fourth and final quarter to boost their proficiency in a given subject as well as seniors who were short credits needed for graduation. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has said the summer will be targeted toward “high-need and hard to reach students,” including no-cost credit recovery programs for high school juniors and seniors.

While the DOE in a typical summer reaches about 4,000 students, the superintendent said she expects participation to be much higher this year through enhanced programs to help students catch up.

Broader Relief For Schools

The summer school funds are a portion of the $43 million that DOE received in federal funding. That’s part of a $13.2 billion federal coronavirus relief package for school districts throughout the U.S. to help offset the impacts of COVID-19 disruption to the school year.

In addition to summer school, some of those funds in Hawaii will be used for distance learning training and salary differentials in hard-to-staff areas, according to a chart the DOE provided.

The amount is distributed using a Title I formula based on a school district’s population of low-income students, including private school students who live in areas designated low-income.

The Hawaii DOE plans to peel off $1.8 million of its $43 million in CARES Act distributions for private schools based on this formula, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Chambers.

“The (CARES) Act states that districts should provide equitable services in the ‘same manner’ as they do under Title I,” she wrote via email. “At this point in time the DOE is planning on following this methodology, which involves providing services for private schools that are located in Title I geographic areas and that opt-in to receive services.”

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said the non-public school share of education funds should be based on total enrollments rather than on the population of low-income students living in any one given area, a stance that has drawn strong resistance from many public school districts and has yet to be fully ironed out.

Under DeVos’ interpretation, private and parochial schools would receive a far greater share of CARES Act funds, taking away dollars from the public schools.

Phil Bossert, head of Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, said in an email the DeVos distribution methodology would boost the state’s private school share of CARES Act funding from 3% to 15% of the total amount.

He noted that more than 90% of Hawaii’s 120 private schools are small institutions between 30 and 300 students, most of whom require financial aid support.

“HAIS has to be concerned about Hawaii’s non-public schools, most of which are NOT rich, well-endowed private schools,” he said.

Bossert said each private school has to let Hawaii DOE know whether it wants to participate in the funding allocation, adding that “some of the private schools will not accept federal or state funds as a matter of principle.”

Hawaii schools are entitled to another $10 million under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund that can be split among public and private schools, as well as higher education institutions, at the governor’s discretion.

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