Parents frustrated with virtual learning have found a new way to protest schools — by not turning in forms that the districts use to apply for federal funds. Although state and local taxes support many public school costs, the federal government provides grants to schools for federally connected children, including children living on some low-rent properties and children of active duty military, living on federal property.
“NO Federal Card return until all our option 1 students are back face to face,” said 2020 Virginia Beach School Board candidate Joanna Moran on Facebook in November.
The survey cards are a rare way for parents to substantially impact school leadership. According to Virginia Beach City Public Schools proposed 2019-2020 budget, the district expected $8.9 million under the Impact Aid Law, about 1.13 percent of the total budget. Nearby York County budgeted for $8.7 million of those federal funds in the current fiscal year.
However, the protest effort has been unintentionally undercut by a recently passed aid law that says already-returned federal cards from the previous year can be used again in current budget planning.
“The president has signed the Impact Aid Coronavirus Relief Act into law. This bill allows school districts to use their FY 2021 student federal card count for their FY 2022 Impact Aid application,” a parent update from the Virginia Beach City Public Schools says. “Families who have federal cards at home are asked to shred them as soon as possible. They do not need to be returned to the schools.”
Some parents supported Moran’s effort and criticized school leaders for keeping schools closed.
Commenter Betsy Dixon said, “What people don’t want to recognize when they make statements about the severity of the virus is that our own medical panel for VBCPS has advised the district to remain open. Claims like “well at least they won’t die from COVID” make me irate, because it’s not the only way to die and the impact on mental health will have an impact on a generation of children, and subsequently effect their own children. Parents and teachers alike should be given the choice to have face to face or virtual learning.”
Others expressed concern that the plan to not turn in the surveys would hurt students. “So by not returning the federal cards are you creating a financial issue? Doesn’t this provide a significant part of the education budget? Teachers are still teaching classes right?” Ailo Sumner commented.
Robert Novak has a child in the York County school district. He told The Virginan-Pilot, “I’m not going to go overboard, but if [school leaders] ask for my help in any way shape or form after they refused to help me, they’re not going to get it.”
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