Non-public school advocates ask Governor Walz for Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds to support non-public school needs

April 17, 2020

Office of Governor Tim Walz & Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan
130 State Capitol
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan:

We write to you on behalf of several organizations supporting students who attend non-public schools across the State of Minnesota. Our organizations collectively represent 65,000 students who attend more than 450 non-public K-12 schools in Minnesota. The average size of a non-public school in Minnesota is 144 students and the median size is 90 students.

We appreciate your efforts and leadership in mitigating the impact and spread of COVID-19. The impact of COVID-19 in our state has placed a significant amount of stress on all schools.

Most non-public schools in Minnesota are small and independent, and provide not only K-12 education services, but also childcare and after-school programs for students. Our non-public schools serve a significant number of low- and middle-income families. Unfortunately, many of our families have been hit particularly hard by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As is true of public schools, Minnesota’s non-public schools find themselves undertaking extraordinary efforts as a result of the pandemic and have utilized significant resources to assure continuity of educational and support services for students and families during this public health crisis. This includes purchasing technology and services to provide distance learning for students (including for families without access to the internet and technology), continuation of childcare, food assistance, and other services to families in need. As you know, all of our schools – whether they are public, charter or non-public – are an essential part of the fabric of our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt all schools and communities throughout the state.

The federal CARES Act provides governors the ability to allocate resources under a discretionary fund called the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER). GEER will provide financial assistance to school districts, charter schools and non-public schools, all of whom have been greatly impacted financially by COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) recently released the application for states to apply for funding under GEER. USDE provided direction to states that funding must be equitable for public, charters and non-public schools. In the guidance, USDE requires states to “ensure that an LEA receiving GEER funds will provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools located within the LEA in the same manner as provided under section 1117 of the ESEA.”

We respectfully request that Minnesota’s application include the following for students attending non-public schools:

  1. Distribute GEER funding allocated to Minnesota (approximately $43 million for the state) on a per-student allocation, focused on low-and-middle income students, for eligible expenses.
  2. Minnesota has long-standing non-public pupil aid programs to distribute resources for educational materials and other expenses to non-public schools through the resident school district. Similar to this process, school districts must be required to distribute resources on an equitable basis to non-public schools for eligible expenses.
  3. Eligible expenses include funding to support remote learning for all students; development of new informational and academic resources for remote learning; and expanding technological capacity including the purchasing of hardware and software; connectivity; instructional materials; and other allowable expenses.

We believe our state’s educational system is strongest when we provide students and families access to the highest quality education options in public schools, charters and non-public schools. We appreciate your efforts in assisting our students to make sure we can continue supporting them and our communities across Minnesota.

Thank you for your consideration. Please contact Tim Benz at 612-532-7630 if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

  • Mike Fairbanks, Chairman
    White Earth Reservation
  • Charlie Weaver, Executive Director
    Minnesota Business Partnership
  • Steve Hunegs, Executive Director
    Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas
  • Tim Benz, President
    Minnesota Independent School Forum
  • Jason Adkins, Executive Director
    Minnesota Catholic Conference
  • Gail Dorn, President
    Catholic Schools Center of Excellence
  • Jean Houghton, Executive Director
    Aim Higher Foundation
  • Anne Nickel Hage, Executive Director
    Minnesota Association of Independent Schools
  • Jason Slattery, Director of Catholic Education
    Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
  • Rashad Turner, Executive Director
    MN Parent Union
  • Sean Martens, Assistant to the President
    Education & Commissioned Ministers Minnesota South District-LCMS
  • Fred Hinz, Public Policy Advocate
    Minnesota South District-LCMS
  • Sarah Mueller, Executive Director
    MN Nonpublic School Accrediting Association
  • Chas Anderson, Executive Director
    Opportunity for All Kids
  • Dan Beckering, Head of School
    SW Christian High School
    Association of Christian Schools
  • Cynthia Zook, Superintendent
    Diocese of Duluth
  • Andrew Hilliker, Director of Catholic Schools
    Diocese of Crookston
  • Karla Cross, Director of Catholic Schools
    Diocese of New Ulm
  • David Fremo, Director Education Ministries
    Diocese of St. Cloud
  • Marcia Stenzel, Director of Catholic Education
    Diocese of Winona-Rochester
  • Yonis Binus, Head of School
    Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School
  • Kevin Breen, Head of School
    Marshall School in Duluth
  • Elias Ali, Interim Principal
    Pioneers Academy
  • Ghada Al-Sadoon, Principal
    Al-Amal School
  • J.B. Borenstein, Executive Director
    Torah Academy
  • Mike Hougen, Principal
    St. Mary’s Mission School
  • Sarah Chalich, Principal
    St. Michael’s School
  • Tim Plath, Principal
    Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
    MN Valley Lutheran School

C:

  • Commissioner Myron Frans, Minnesota Management & Budget
  • Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker, Minnesota Department of Education
  • Sen. Paul Gazelka, Senate Majority Leader
  • Rep. Melissa Hortman, Speaker of the House
  • Sen. Susan Kent, Senate Minority Leader
  • Rep. Kurt Daudt, House Minority Leader

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