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State gets $4 million in grant money for education initiatives

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The state intentionally held up for over a year $4 million in federal grant money under the CARES Act program that was targeted for Hawaii schools for innovative educational initiatives that address the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, such as digital equity and distance learning.

The federal government had awarded a total of nearly $10 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) money to Hawaii on April 22, 2020, early on in the pandemic, but Gov. David Ige denied this was a case of “analysis paralysis,” during a news conference Wednesday.

“We were very focused that we’re asking principals and teachers to get involved with a grant application and grant writing process earlier this year would be adding one more burden onto people who were already working very hard to serve the students,” Ige said.

He said the schools were busy figuring out how to operate at the start of the school year in the fall, and most transformed into virtual learning,” which was a tremendous responsibility.

“Part of the timing of the availability of the funds was in recognition of the activity in schools all across the state,” he said.

Now those principals and teachers have three weeks to submit their grant applications by the June 4 deadline.

Public schools will be up against private and charter schools, higher education institutions and educational entities such as museums and cultural centers.

Ige said each school would be vying for a grant of between $100,000 and $500,000.

If grants are each $500,000, as few as eight schools could be awarded a grant. If the grants were kept to $100,000 each, a maximum 40 schools would benefit.

Proposals will be approved by June 30. Implementation begins starting July 15.

Ige convened a GEER advisory group of education leaders in June 2020.

The remainder of the $9,993,837 in GEER funds Hawaii received went to other educational programs, such as $5 million to the University of Hawaii for its Distance Learning Teacher Academy (Hawaii Online Portal for Education).

“We did make some funds available for the long-lead-time items,” Ige said. “We released funds to UH for HOPE, the online portal,” which gives teachers an opportunity to share information and interact with one another.

Another $600,000 was awarded to UH to develop the Transition to College Program (Next Steps to Your Future) for public high school juniors and seniors whose college plans were affected by the pandemic in 2020-21.

For more information on applying for the grant, go to click on Education.

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