FILE - WI Howard Marklein

Wisconsin state Sen. Howard Marklein

(The Center Square) – Schools in Wisconsin that stayed open during last year’s coronavirus closures may not get any extra money after all.

The U.S. Department of Education approved most of Wisconsin’s proposal to spend $1.5 billion in Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) money on the state’s schools.

DOE held up a plan to spend 5% of that money, $77 million, on schools that stayed open during the height of last year’s outbreak.

State Superintendent Jill Underly said the feds want to know how sending that money to schools that had in-person classes accomplishes ESSER’s goal of supporting “students who have been most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Republican lawmakers who wrote the plan wanted to reward schools that stayed open for at least 50% of the time. They still do.

“The Joint Finance Committee and Republicans in the legislature continue to put kids first rather than play partisan political games. We all know that our kids need to be in school for in-person instruction – even DOE acknowledges that children were harmed by virtual learning and stresses the importance of in-person instruction,” JFC co-chairs Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said. “But the Biden and Evers administrations are putting politics over what is best for our kids.”

Underly said she is willing to work with lawmakers to figure out how to spend the $77 million.

“We all share a mutual interest in doing what is best for Wisconsin’s students, and that means supporting our learners as thoroughly and expediently as possible,” she added.

Marklein and Born said they continue to wait for Underly and her Department of Public Instruction to cooperate with them.

“The legislature sent our ESSER plan to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in May 2021. They sat on it for months while working behind the scenes with their political counterparts in Washington D.C. to find ways to deny our efforts to reward schools that did the hard work of educating our kids in person during a pandemic,” the two said. “DPI and the Biden administration have unnecessarily delayed this funding for our schools to play political games. It is shameful.”

Still, both Marklein and Born, and Underly said $1.4 billion in federal funds is now on its way to schools across the state.