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ISEA wants teachers to be in on discussions for spending millions in federal pandemic relief

DES MOINES — The state teachers union is calling on superintendents and school boards to include teachers and other school staff in discussions about how districts plan to use the latest batch of $770 million in federal pandemic relief.

State law limits teacher contract negotiations to a discussion of salaries, but ISEA president Mike Beranek said U.S. Department of Education guidelines require “all school employees” to be engaged in “meaningful consultation” in how federal funds approved in March are used.

“There is no ambiguity about this direction,” Beranek said, “and we want to want to make it perfectly clear that Iowa’s educators who bravely and consistently worked on the frontlines of this pandemic, who understand first hand what their students need will be at the table when the ideas for use are discussed and the final decisions are made.”

Allison Grier, a Spanish teacher at Newton High School, said this new batch of federal funds can be used in creative ways to address student needs and learning loss.

“These funds offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for innovation and for remediation,” she said.

Kelly McMahon, a kindergarten teacher at Hoover Elementary in Cedar Rapids, said the money can help address barriers to student success.

“This historic influx of money in our school communities can be a game-changer for so many students, families, and educators — if done right,” she said. “Now more than ever educators, parents, administrators, and other stakeholders absolutely must be at the table when discussions and decisions are being made about these funds. We can rise above the effects of this pandemic in ways we’ve never dreamed of.”

The latest round of pandemic relief funds from the federal government can be used to do things like hire new teachers, mental health counselors, and school nurses or to finance summer school programs.

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