Governor Brad Little (R-Idaho) stopped in Pocatello this morning to eat breakfast and to talk about COVID-19. After which, he visited Chubbuck Elementary School. The main focus of his visit: education and reopening schools safely during the pandemic.
"When this wonderful COVID virus hit," says the governor. " We were one of the first states to say we need to dial back spending to where we can get through this."
Governor Little visited East Idaho cities Monday to address COVID-19 and attend local schools. The dialing back on spending he talked about at the Pocatello breakfast referred to cutting budgets statewide, including school funding.
"So, we said we're going to cut all the agencies by five percent," explained Governor Little.
The Cares Act passed by congress in March allotted $2.2 trillion to be sent out to states to help boost their economies during the pandemic.
"Just two weeks ago [the] treasury again updated their guidance and said they calculated that COVID costs 499 or 500 dollars per student," said Governor Little.
With the new calculated costs came new guidance for how governors could use Cares Act funds. It now allows states to give some of that money to school districts.
Last week, Governor Little set aside an additional $99 million (on top of more than $122 million that was allotted to schools this year) for pandemic relief. This means the five percent budget cuts to schools essentially no longer exist.
During his stop in southeastern Idaho, Governor Little visited Chubbuck Elementary School to see how the staff and students are adapting to its new COVID-protocols.
At the school, he met a few disgruntled parents; parents who want Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 to return to full-time classes.
One parent told the governor, "That's the frustrating part. The way the Pocatello school district sees it, the way the Blackfoot school district sees it, the way the Idaho Falls school district sees it, are vastly different."
The governor reminded the parents that individual school districts must work with local health districts to decide what's best for the area. The state does not decide how or when a school district opens. He said he encourages all schools to return as soon as possible while keeping in mind that one of the goals of the shut down is to preserve health-care capacity.
The governor also addressed this topic at the breakfast.
"I'm just being straight with you," He stated. "If you have spread at a certain point and time, you can have schools open but there won't be any kids there."
The governor reminded all in attendance at the breakfast of the three main goals the state has right now: keeping people safe, rebounding the economy and getting kids in school. He said all of those work in tandem.