Quick Take:

Santa Cruz County schools can expect to get about $166 million in combined pandemic aid from federal and state sources, according to a Lookout analysis of countywide data. The amount of funds flowing into each district on a per student basis ranges significantly because of funding formulas that prioritize districts with low-income and high-need students.

Santa Cruz County schools expect to receive at least $166 million in combined pandemic aid from three federal stimulus bills and multiple state relief packages, data compiled by the County Office of Education shows.

But the amount of cash each local district will get varies greatly because of funding formulas that prioritize low-income students and students with special needs. The amount of aid per student ranges from about $1,000 to nearly $5,000, according to a Lookout analysis of the data.

The analysis is a rough estimate, based on enrollment data from last year, and with a portion of the funding dependent on how quickly districts roll out more in-person learning this spring. But it offers a window into how funding formulas can lead to significantly varied levels of aid.

Federal aid is apportioned based on each district’s Title I formula, tied to the proportion of students within a district that qualify for free or reduced price lunch. State aid is doled out based on the Local Control Funding Formula, which also prioritizes districts with high numbers of language learners and foster youth.

Pajaro Valley Unified is set to receive the most funding at about $4,979 per student, the analysis shows. The county’s largest school district with an enrollment of nearly 20,000 students last year, PVUSD is home to the high numbers of low-income students and English learners. Its combined federal and state support amounts to more than $98 million — more than a third of its entire budget last year.

On the other end of the spectrum is San Lorenzo Valley Unified, a rural district set to receive roughly $1,015 dollars per student based on its enrollment last year. Santa Cruz City Schools falls in the middle of the pack, expected to receive about $3,525 in combined per-student aid.

Much of the funding is relatively flexible, leaving districts to decide on their own how best to put aid to use — whether retrofitting classrooms, purchasing new technology, and providing new programs and support. But each funding pool comes with at least some strings attached.

The largest pot of federal K-12 stimulus — the American Rescue Plan, signed into law March 11 — mandates that districts spend at least 20% of funds to directly address learning loss, including after-school and summer programs.

About $2 billion in state funding approved under AB 86, meanwhile, is tied to districts reopening classrooms for at least some in-person learning by May 15. For Santa Cruz County, that amounts to more than $12 million in contingent funding (including charter schools and the County Office of Education).

All local districts have, or plan to, reopen their classrooms at least some of the time in advance of the state deadline.

More on school reopenings

Follow Nick Ibarra on: Twitter. Ibarra has a track record of reporting that has shone light into almost every corner of Santa Cruz County. Raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he came to journalism from...