On April 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education granted preliminary approval to California’s request for flexibility in using federal funds. Submitted by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond on April 10, the waivers seek to loosen restrictions on how and when federal education funds can be spent. Pursuit of the waivers was authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to ease the immediate impacts of COVID-19 school closures (see “$2.2 Trillion Federal Stimulus Package for COVID-19 Signed Into Law” in the March 2020 Fiscal Report).
Specifically, California received preliminary waivers from federal requirements to do the following:
- Allow a local educational agency (LEA) to carry over more than 15% of its Title I, Part A funds, even if the LEA had received approval to exceed this limitation in the past three years. Title I, Part A provides financial assistance to LEAs with high numbers of low-income students.
- Extend the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for programs included in Title I, Parts A-D; Title II; Title III, Part A; Title IV, Parts A-B; Title V, Part B; and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth program. LEAs would have until September 30, 2021, to use these resources.
- Permit an LEA to use its Title IV, Part A funds to best meet its needs without regard to content-area spending requirements, spending limits on technology infrastructure, or completing a needs assessment.
- Expand the definition of “professional development” for activities funded for the 2019–20 school year so that grantees may deliver timely support for educators to provide effective distance learning
As part of the federal waiver process, the State is accepting public comment on the waiver application through May 1. Comments may be sent via email to ESSA@cde.ca.gov or by mail to the California Department of Education, Government Affairs Division, 1430 N Street, Suite 5602, Sacramento, CA 95814-5901.