If you’ve ever made a meal out of whatever you could find left in the refrigerator because the thought of going to the grocery store for something fresh seemed like an exhaustive proposition, then you’ll understand the logic behind this week’s column.
This is the very first installment of “The Leftovers,” otherwise known as a couple of random topics combined to produce something filling (maybe).
For those of you watching at home, bonus points are available if you can spot the difference between an opinion and news.
Nearly every Saturday at least one random stranger on the Mesabi Tribune Facebook page posts something similar to this in response to my column: Do you get all of your opinions straight from Fox News?
The short answer is no, I do not.
In fact, I don’t have cable television and haven’t for many months.
Most of what I write travels directly from my brain to my fingers into my keyboard and onto the screen in front of me.
I do sometimes have to search the Internet for certain things just to make sure I’m not speaking completely out of my backside. I am but a lowly journalist after all, paid to know a little about a lot of things.
But for the most part I try to base the meat of my commentary on my perspective of life, whether or not that jives with yours.
Thinking for myself is a habit I formed while growing up in the 1970s and 80s.
I know that might blow a mind or two out there but it’s true — people actually formed opinions before the Internet came along and made up their minds for them.
In fact, some of us still use a strange mix of our eyeballs, our ears and our life experiences as a reference point for basing our opinions.
That’s right boys and girls, before Bill Gates developed his life altering algorithms or Steve Jobs glued the world to a phone screen, people used a handful of ancient Jedi mind tricks including common sense and real world experience to help them form independent thoughts.
Ah, the good old days — gone but not forgotten by the majority, just revised to not trigger digital citizens.
One of the misconceptions floating around social media is the idea that school boards voting to require face coverings are doing so in order to leverage federal COVID-19 relief money.
It’s just not true.
Schools across the country have received three rounds of relief funding, one with each stimulus bill that has passed, and the money can be spent on masks or anything else school district officials believe will stop or slow the spread of COVID-19, but masking students is not a requirement to receive the funds.
That information comes straight from the Department of Education.
According to a recent story in Education Week, since March 2020, the federal government has provided $190 billion in pandemic aid to schools, an amount that is more than four times what the U.S. Education Department spends on K-12 schools in a typical year.
“The latest and largest round of funding, totaling $123 billion, is still being distributed and gives schools enormous flexibility in how to spend it. While 20% must be used to address learning setbacks, the rest can be used on nearly any cost school officials deem ‘reasonable and necessary,’” according to an Associated Press story from early September.
Schools have three years to spend the latest round.
The theory that schools are masking up for cash might stem from President Joe Biden saying earlier this fall that the federal government would make up funds for school district’s who chose to enforce mask mandates in counties or states where the powers that be above them threatened financial repercussions if they did.
An AP story from earlier this year reported that some districts are opposing their states to strengthen COVID-19 safety measures. Alachua and Broward counties in Florida, for example, defied the governor to require masks in schools.
At that point the president announced that the feds would fill in any gaps in funding that result. That money goes above and beyond the $123 billion set aside for school reopenings in the American Rescue Plan.
According to the White House at the time of the announcement, "Local school districts will be able to apply to the Department of Education in the coming weeks to restore funding withheld by state leaders ... when a school district implemented strategies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools."
That program is called Project SAFE (Supporting America's Families and Educators), and it will be funded under Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Minnesota is definitely not Florida and school districts here aren’t facing the same challenges.