FILE - Commissioner Penny Schwinn Classroom

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn speaks with a student during a school visit Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, at Westwood Elementary School in Manchester, Tenn. 

(The Center Square) – Tennessee will distribute $5 million in federal COVID-19 education relief dollars to charter schools across the state, Gov. Bill Lee announced Wednesday.

Half of the grant funds will be awarded to charter schools on a per-pupil basis, and the other half will be allocated based on the school’s substantial academic growth in literacy and math.

"Tennessee's charter sector provides many families across the state with the opportunity to make the best choice for their child’s education – an opportunity they would not otherwise have,” Lee said. “This grant will help to ensure Tennesseans continue to have access to high-quality school options by supporting schools that have demonstrated strong student growth.”

The $5 million comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, a portion of federal money received by the state from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The grants will help address the significant funding gap charter schools experience, said Dr. Maya Bugg, who runs the Tennessee Charter School Center. 

“This allocation will help to ensure that Tennessee’s high-quality public charter schools are able to continue providing excellent learning environments for students and families across the state,” Bugg said in a statement. 

Funding for charter schools comes in addition to $61 million in CARES Act funding allocated to K-12 schools, $11 million in grants to support school reopening in local school districts, and $50 million in technology grants for Wi-Fi devices and laptops to support distance learning.

Applications for each school’s allotment opened Wednesday and will close Nov. 20. Funds will be distributed by Dec. 1.

“As educators, families and students navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we are grateful to Governor Lee for making education funding a top priority,” Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said. “This Charter School Support Grant is an important measure to support our strong public charter school sector and ensure families continue to have access to high-quality school options.”

Staff Reporter

Vivian Jones reports on Tennessee and South Carolina for The Center Square. Her writing has appeared in the Detroit News, The Hill, and publications of The Heartland Institute.