As districts across the country extend closures—and with some even making plans to continue virtual learning through the rest of the semester—the Department of Education (USDE) continues to issue flexibilities and waivers in order to ensure districts have the freedom to move federal dollars to address their most urgent needs. These needs will inevitably vary greatly from district to district.
Additional Waivers From the Department of Education
On April 6, the Department issued a press release stating, “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today a new streamlined process for providing states funding flexibilities to best meet the needs of students and educators during the COVID-19 national emergency. The new flexibilities, authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning, among other flexibilities to move resources to areas of highest need during the national emergency.”
The USDE also stated that, “Any state may complete a brief form available at oese.ed.gov, and it will receive an initial determination within one business day. Using the form, states can receive flexibility in the use of funds and other requirements covered under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), including the Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, and Title V programs.”
The current specific waivers from the Department include the following:
- Section 1127(b) of Title I, Part A of the ESEA to waive the 15% carryover limitation for Title I, Part A funds;
- Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) to extend the period of availability of prior fiscal year funds, for Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, and Title V, Part B programs, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth program;
- Section 4106(d) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive a needs assessment to justify the use of funds;
- Section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive content-specific spending requirements;
- Section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive spending restrictions on technology infrastructure; and
- Section 8101(42) of the ESEA to waive 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.
Additional Resources for School Districts
Along with these waivers, there is a windfall of funds coming to K-12 education with talk of phase four of the CARES Act bringing additional resources to districts. According to The Hill, “Republican senators, currently spread across the country because of Congress's three-week break, say they are already starting to discuss a ‘phase four’ coronavirus relief bill.” While it’s unclear exactly what will be in phase four, leadership has already stated that infrastructure and access to broadband will be a priority.
This is a critical time for planning along with quick action. It is also critical that these waivers be used in a way that ensures the health and safety of students.
Update: Since the USDE announcement of the waiver process on April 6, the Department has taken quick action to meet states' needs. In fact, 28 states have already been approved for funding flexibility under the CARES Act as of April 8.
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