On April 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) hosted a call clarifying the funding allocations that have been made available in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Team members at MIND Research Institute, creators of ST Math, have summarized the Department’s call below, and added further resources for educators seeking coronavirus-related funding opportunities for distance learning measures.
Multiple education funding mechanisms are articulated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In total, the CARES Act is a $2 trillion package of assistance measures across many areas of need, with a $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund dedicated to supporting states, schools, and institutes of higher education.
Signed into law on March 27, 2020, the CARES Act includes four grants and funds that are allocated for different education-related purposes. These include:
“Parents, families and teachers are depending on you and your leadership to ensure students don't miss the opportunity to keep learning. This national emergency gives us all an unprecedented opportunity to truly re-think and transform education. That's why I urge states to use the influx of resources to drive meaningful change and build capacity,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in remarks at the start of the call.
“We're looking for every opportunity and we're doing everything we can to empower local education leaders to do the next right thing for their students.”
GEERF is designed with flexibility in mind, giving governors discretion to determine how to best meet the needs of students, schools (including charter and non-public schools), and other education organizations. Secretary DeVos described the fund as an “extraordinarily flexible emergency block grant.”
According to Secretary DeVos, 90% of what states receive under ESSERF must be disbursed at the local level to local education agencies, or LEAs, and only 10% of the fund may be used at the state level to address emergency needs due to COVID-19. Funds were allocated to states in the same proportion as received under Title I, Part A, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in fiscal year 2019.
LEAs may use the funds they receive for any activity authorized by ESEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Perkins Act, and the McKinney Vento Homeless Youth Act.
In particular, LEAs may use the funds to provide resources for school needs including online learning and education technology (including devices and internet services).
The funds may also be used for mental health needs; summer learning and afterschool programs; support to students with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness, low income, or foster care, as well as English language learners and racial or ethnic minorities; meal services; emergency/pandemic preparation and response; operational and continuity planning; and more.
According to Frank Brogan, assistant secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, ED is turning funding dollars around in record time. With significant efforts to streamline the certification and application process, funds may now be obligated in as little as three business days after the agreement is signed. At that point, educational agencies will distribute funds to LEAs.
While the CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, officials on the ED call explained that states will be able to backdate their reimbursement requests to March 13.
“We've taken the position that the emergency started on March 13 when the President announced a national emergency,” said Jim Blue, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development at ED. “Eligible expenses include pretty much anything related to the pandemic and educating your students.”
Any state may complete a brief form available at oese.ed.gov, and it will receive an initial determination within one business day. Applicable funds and requirements include ESEA Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, and Title V programs.
According to the ED press release, states may request:
Waiver of the 15% carryover limitation for Title I, Part A
Extension of the period of availability of prior fiscal year funds
Waiver of the needs assessment, content-specific spending requirements, and spending restrictions on technology infrastructure under Title IV, Part A
Waiver of the definition of “professional development,” which might otherwise limit the ability to quickly train school leaders and teachers on topics like effective distance learning techniques
Rethink K-12 Education Models
As part of the overall CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund, ED announced on April 27 a new discretionary grant program called Rethink K-12 Education Models (REM). Targeted at state educational agencies, REM grants are available across three categories:
Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives
Liz Neiman is Vice President of Engagement at MIND, leading the marketing team's plans and activities to promote MIND's initiatives and impact. Besides education and gaming, her interests include music of all kinds (from musical theater to heavy metal), cooking and baking, and fashion. Follow her on Twitter @lizneiman.