The White House announced Friday that Oklahoma will receive just under $10 million in funding under President Biden and Congressional Democrats' American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package meant to support students experiencing homelessness.
"Alongside the announcement, the Department issued a letter to Chief State School Officers underscoring the urgent need to use this funding to identify homeless children and youth, provide wraparound services in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide assistance to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities, including in-person instruction this spring and upcoming summer learning and enrichment programs," the federal Department of Education said in a news release.
According to an Oklahoma State Department of Education spokesperson, as of Tuesday morning they had not yet determined how the funding would be allocated and distributed but hoped to have that information available within a matter of weeks.
Kendall Huerta, homeless education coordinator for Tulsa Public Schools, said "any extra funding is definitely needed and definitely will be helpful."
Huerta said in an average, non-pandemic year, TPS counts around 1,300 students as experiencing homelessness while attending school, and the district strives to provide them with assistance with transportation, school uniforms, tutoring, personal hygiene and more.
"We could buy new vans to transport students to and from school," Huerta said. "Transportation is very important to our students. There's multiple things -- tutoring to provide... it just depends on the amount. We haven't received our allocation yet."
“The pandemic made the inequities in our education system even worse, especially for students experiencing homelessness,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “As districts and schools return to in-person learning, we must act with urgency to provide all students, including students experiencing homelessness, equitable access to high-quality learning environments and the resources to help meet their basic needs which schools often provide.”