On March 27, two weeks ago last Friday, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), a $2 trillion stimulus package intended to help industries getting slammed by COVID-19. Part of the money—$30 billion—is subtitled the “Education Stabilization Fund” (ESF) and earmarked for K-12 schools, colleges and universities. Of that $30 billion, $13.5 billion will be distributed to states and territories, which will then parcel it out to districts, most of it going to those with large numbers of low-income students. Three billion dollars is supposed to be quickly allocated to state governors for essential emergency support grants for schools and other education-related entities.
Two weeks is a long time during a pandemic. States are tired of waiting.
On Friday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Chair and Vice-Chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, sent a letter on behalf of all the nation’s governors to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In that letter, they urge “swift action” for the distribution of ESF funds and “maximum flexibility” for governors to “determine how to best address the needs of each community during the COVID-19 crisis.” The money represents, they write, “a lifeline to educators and students during this time of unprecedented uncertainty.”
When/if Secretary DeVos responds, I’ll update this post.
Here is the full letter:
April 3, 2020
The Honorable Betsy DeVos Secretary, U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20202
Dear Secretary DeVos:
On behalf of the nation’s governors, we write to urge swift action by the U.S. Department of Education to disburse funds to states and territories from the Education Stabilization Fund of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, P.L. 116-136). We also ask for maximum flexibility for states so that they may determine how to best address the needs of each community during the COVID-19 crisis.
Congress created three funding streams under the Education Stabilization Fund: the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Congress meant for these funds to provide flexible, immediate resources to communities, schools, institutions and students as they respond to the significant disruption caused by COVID-19. The more than $30 billion in education funding will be a lifeline to educators and students during this time of unprecedented uncertainty.
States need time to establish both structures to evaluate student needs and processes to rapidly deploy these funds. That work cannot begin until the Department provides guidance about how and when it will send funding to the states. We urge the Department to act quickly to distribute these funds.
For all three education funding streams under the Education Stabilization Fund, NGA asks that the Department provide:
• all Education Stabilization Fund funding to governors, states and higher education institutions within the next two weeks; • governors, states and institutions with the greatest amount of flexibility reflected in the statutory language of the CARES Act; • flexibility for all three funds that permit governors, states and institutions the ability to reimburse costs already incurred during the COVID-19 crisis by states, local governments and higher education entities; • a streamlined process for Maintenance of Effort waivers, fund disbursement and clear guidance that adheres to the flexible statutory language of the CARES Act; and • opportunities for governors and state officials to play an active role in the development of the Department’s guidance and processes.
Governors look forward to a cooperative, collaborative and productive relationship with you and your staff as we work together to immediately protect students and educators during this public health emergency.
Laura Waters is the founder and managing editor of New Jersey Education Report, formerly a senior writer/editor with brightbeam. Laura writes about New Jersey and New York education policy and politics. As the daughter of New York City educators and parent of a son with special needs, she writes frequently about the need to listen to families and ensure access to good public school options for ...