The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates $13.5 billion for K-12 education through a stabilization fund, of which at least 90% is intended for school districts through the Title I aid formula, including serving English-language learners, and the rest of which can be used for most educational purposes. The package also includes a $3 billion fund for state governors to use as they wish to help K-12 and higher education.
The Act provides additional funding:
- $15.8 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program;
- $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs to help ensure students receive meals when school is not in session;
- $3.5 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants, which provide child-care subsidies to low-income families and can be used to augment state and local systems;
- $750 million for Head Start early-education programs;
- $100 million in Project SERV grants to help clean and disinfect schools, and provide support for mental health services and distance learning;
- $69 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education; and
- $5 million for health departments to provide guidance on cleaning and disinfecting schools and day-care facilities.
The Act does not allocate any additional funds for the Federal Communications Commission’s existing E-Rate program, but the K-12 stabilization money could be used to provide internet connectivity and devices for students. The CARES Act does allocate an extra $25 million for rural connectivity by way of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Programs to support “distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband.”
But which many schools already use for internet and technology efforts. Some education groups have promoted that funding stream, saying schools are familiar with its regulations and requirements. And they’ve called on the FCC to loosen regulations so that the funding can be more easily spent on at-home devices for students who lack internet access. The unsuccessful bill proposed by House Democrats included $2 billion for a new E-Rate program to provide internet and internet-connected devices to students who need them, as well as $1 billion for Head Start.
Many states have already applied through a streamlined process to get waivers from accountability, reporting, and testing requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Even before Congress passed the bill, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had begun waiving testing requirements for states.
To access the fund, states must agree to provide at least the same level of funding to education in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 as their average education spend over the three prior fiscal years.
The package also requires that any state or school district getting money from the stabilization fund “shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus.”