State Funding, CARES Act, & More
Push For Education Stabilization Funds Continues
With school closures affecting more than 55 million students and uncertainty surrounding the timing of re-opening in the fall, America’s K-12 schools are in a tenuous position. The coming months will bring more uncertainty and pose new challenges: When is it safe to re-open schools? How will schools and classrooms be transformed in a post-coronavirus world? Will schools be required to do on-site testing for students and staff when schools resume? There are still more questions than answers, but one thing is clear: schools and districts will need strong federal support to face these looming challenges. In addition to the array of coronavirus-related costs schools will face, they will also likely see steep declines in state and local aid as a slowing economy strains budgets.
One of the benefits of being an NAESP member is representation of your voice on Capitol Hill. During a time like this, with tens of billions of dollars at stake for schools, federal advocacy takes on added significance. Over the past few months, NAESP has urged Congress to provide $175 billion in education stablibilization funds, which would help schools backfill expected state budget cuts to education funding. So far, NAESP members have made more than 3,600 connections with their members of Congress, urging them to support education stabilization funds.
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Fourth Coronavirus Package Passes House, Uncertain Prospects In Senate
On May 15, 2020, the U.S. House passed its fourth COVID-19 stimulus and relief package—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated his disapproval with the package, saying the Senate will craft its own legislation at a later date. Extended negotiations are likely, with passage of a final deal likely in June or July
Overview of K-12 provisions in the HEROES Act:
$90 billion in education stabilization funds (distributed to governors)
- $58 billion dedicated to pre-K-12 schools; $27 billion dedicated to higher education; $4 billion for flexible investments in K-12 and higher education; $450 million each for Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas.
- Distribution to states is based on the following: 61% on the state’s relative share of the population aged 5–24 and 39% on the state’s relative number of eligible children under Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
- Of the funds each governor receives, 65% must be distributed to K–12 school districts based on their relative share of Title I funding.
- Districts and schools can use stabilization funding for any allowable use under ESSA and IDEA; purchasing educational technology; providing professional development related to virtual learning; offering summer learning programs, either online or in-person; implementing activities to maintain the operation and continuity of services; and employing existing staff (to receive funds, districts must, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay employees and contractors).
$1.5 billion for improving broadband access for students (E-Rate program)
- The HEROES Act includes $1.5 billion for the E-Rate program, which helps schools and libraries connect students to the internet by purchasing Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices.
- NAESP has urged Congress to include $4 billion for the E-Rate program to address the “homework gap,” experienced by the 12 million students who do not have home internet access.
Other noteworthy provisions included in the HEROES Act:
- Maintaining state funding—to receive stabilization funds, states must give “assurances” that they will provide at least as much funding for K–12 and higher education in fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022 as they did in fiscal year 2019.
- Eliminates authority for the Department of Education (ED) to provide grants to states with the highest coronavirus burden; ED had proposed to use these funds for “micro-grants” to families to purchase educational services, including from private providers.
- Clarifies that equitable services to non-public school children under the CARES Act must be provided only to students who are eligible for equitable services under Title I of ESSA, not all private school children.
Update On CARES Act Funding Implementation
Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund ($2.95 billion)
In late March, Congress passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, which included a $3 billion education fund for governors—the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. GEER funds can be used for K-12 education and/or higher education, with flexibility given to governors on how these funds are used. Some states have already applied and received these funds, while others will receive their allocation in the coming weeks.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund ($13.23 billion)
Also included in the CARES Act was a $13.23 billion pot of funding for districts/schools for coronavirus response. Funding will be allocated to SEAs based on Title I formula and SEAs will then push down 90% of these funds to districts also based on Title I formula. The Department of Education has promised a quick turnaround in getting these funds out to states.
Other News & Notes
Haphazard, piecemeal federal guidance on school re-openings
The CDC has begun to weigh in on school re-openings, releasing a “decision tree” with some basic information to schools, after the administration rejected draft recommendations as too prescriptive. The CDC has since released more detailed interim guidance on things like keeping desks six feet apart.
“Equitable Services” guidance aims to steer coronavirus funds to private schools
The Department of Education (ED) recently released guidance for how districts should provide “equitable services” under the CARES Act. The guidance, which does not carry the weight of law and is merely an interpretation, indicates that the equitable services share for private schools is determined by overall enrollment, not poverty rates. This interpretation is inconsistent with well-established precedent and has caused confusion for states and districts. NAESP has joined other education groups in urging ED to revise this guidance.
Student meal delivery and pick-up waivers extended through the summer
On Friday, May 15, the United States Department of Agriculture announced it would be extending the non-congregate, parent pickup, and meal times waivers through August 2020. The extension enables the continuation of drive-thru meal pick-ups and delivering meals on bus routes for low-income students and families throughout the summer.