Congress passed the staggering $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that includes waiver authority for the Secretary of Education to waive federally required testing and a host of other requirements. It also includes about $38 billion in funding for higher education and K-12 education.

The Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) portion of the CARES Act includes $13.5 billion for K-12 and $14 billion for higher education. School districts will receive 90% of the K-12 portion. Some education groups, including the nation’s two national teachers’ unions, have asked for as much as $75 billion for K-12 education. In comparison, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 included $100 billion for education (K-12 and higher education), while CARES only provides $38 billion.  These education groups will likely push for additional funding.

States will receive a portion of the ESF based on the current percentage of Title I funds that states receive in comparison to the total amount of Title I funds available. For example, if State X receives 2% of the ESEA Title I funding sent to all states, then it will receive 2% of the ESF sent to all states. ESF funds will be sent to local education agencies (LEAs) using the Title I distribution formula for that state. LEAs are not limited to using these funds in Title I programs only.

The Title I formula is being used to distribute the funds, but it is not all Title I funding. It is allowable to use ESF funds for multiple programs under a significant number of education laws, which include:

  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act
  • The Adult Education and Family Literacy Act
  • Perkins Career and Technical Education
  • Other purposes related to response coordination, professional development, purchasing technology, buying sanitation supplies, and other activities

It is important to note that LEAs that receive ESF funds must still meet the requirements of providing equitable services to non-public or private schools based on the requirements outlined in ESSA Title I, Section 1117.

The CARES Act also includes $3 billion in funding in an Emergency Relief Fund that will be provided to governors using a formula. These funds can be used by governors to address the impact of the Coronavirus on both K-12 and higher education.

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