Governor Ralph DLG. Torres announced on Wednesday that the US Department of Education has formally informed him of an additional $5.58 million for the CNMI under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, as well as $22.35 million for the Public School System, the CNMI’s state education agency.
Initially, the CNMI, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands were not on the initial list of emergency education allocations to the territories. Governor Torres has been in daily contact with the US Department of Education since the passage of the CARES Act to ensure that funding is provided for the Public School System and the Northern Marianas College.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wrote a letter to Governor Torres in response to his requests for emergency education funding.
“Thank you for all you are doing to lead Northern Mariana Islands through this unprecedented national emergency. You are making important decisions every day to keep your citizens safe, and you are tackling head on the challenges created by COVID-19 in your communities, workplaces, and schools. While students and educators are facing significant disruptions and obstacles, you play an influential role in ensuring that learning continues for all students,” Secretary DeVos wrote to Governor Torres.
Governor Torres thanked Secretary DeVos for her partnership in assisting the CNMI with this educational relief package.
“I thank President Trump, Secretary DeVos, and our federal partners both in Capitol Hill and in the US Department of Education for their commitment to responding to my requests and for being true partners as we combat this crisis. People and government services are in severe need,” said Governor Torres.
Governor Torres noted that initially, with the exception of Puerto Rico, the CNMI and the territories were left out of the allocation for the GEER Fund.
“We need to hold all who are responsible for helping our community navigate this crisis accountable. An error was made during the formulation of this critical aid to PSS and NMC and has disenfranchised our students in the CNMI,” noted Governor Torres. “Congress and our Delegate must correct this inequality in benefits. Students in the CNMI should not be treated any less important than those throughout the states and Puerto Rico.”
“I will be working with Board of Education Chairwoman Janice Tenorio and Commissioner of Education Dr. Alfred Ada for PSS, as well as NMC Board of Regents Chairman Charles V. Cepeda and Interim President Frankie Eliptico for our islands’ college to ensure that funding gets to our students, teachers, and staff for distance learning resources, as well as addressing the COVID-19 budget shortfall to pay for salaries and operations,” added Governor Torres.
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