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What Regulatory Relief Does the CARES Act Provide Schools?

By Divya Sridhar, Ph.D., Policy Advisor at McGraw Hill

There are several ways in which federal CARES Act education provisions may support schools. In our first blog, we explored what the CARES Act grant funding could mean for educators. Now we are going into depth about how schools can leverage the Act, aside from direct monetary aid. One such manner in which CARES Act support schools is through additional regulatory flexibility. Regulatory flexibility is beneficial to schools since it provides schools additional autonomy to carry over and use existing 2020 funds into the 2020–2021 school year in the most appropriate manner, such as to support educational decay and build more robust 21st century blended classrooms, with cutting edge education technology.

Read on to learn how the CARES Act can further benefit your school.

How CARES Act Regulatory Relief Can Translate into Monetary Benefits

Traditionally, schools using Title I federal funds are allowed to carry over no more than 15 percent of funding from the previous year. This year, states are allowed to apply for waivers from the Department of Education that will relax this cap.

Additionally, Title IV Part A funds are traditionally allocated with a stringent formula that permits schools to use only a portion of the funds on education technology. Once states apply, schools can qualify for additional flexibility on how they use their Title IV part A block grant funds. This is due to the additional regulatory relief in the CARES Act that waives the strict allocation percentages, which are normally split for purposes across three categories: a well-rounded curriculum, safe and healthy schools, and education technology.

Traditionally, Title IV, Part A funds are dedicated for these three purposes — well-rounded curriculum, safe and healthy school, and education technology — so schools are to prioritize funding based on the allocation requirements assigned to Title IV part A funds.

This year, though, the additional loosening of requirements allows schools greater autonomy to use these funds to meet their needs and increase their ability to stop students from falling too far behind.

Other Regulatory Relief in the CARES Act

Under the current circumstances, schools have no choice but to transition to virtual learning. Many states have now applied for waivers that allow schools to forgo some of the key stipulations they had to meet to receive Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) funds and follow ESSA, which is the overarching K-12 law.

Here are a few other examples of the regulatory relief in the CARES Act:

  • Allowing states to apply for a waiver to bypass the end-of-course assessment standards currently required under ESSA
  • Allowing states to request waivers to potentially waive requirements that high school students need to complete to meet graduation requirements to qualify for postsecondary education; and
  • Allowing states and school districts to request waivers for certain requirements under Title I and Title IV, Part A of ESSA. The Title IV, Part A guidelines govern the ratio of allowable use for various purposes, including EdTech. As noted above, states and districts can apply for a waiver under this new requirement to allow them to use more of their Title IV, Part A funds on education technology.

Here are additional resources to support schools as they review the regulatory relief under the CARES Act:

Other Education Grants

Of importance, there are additional funds, aside from the Education Stabilization Grant, set aside for K-12 schools in the Governor’s relief funds and in other Department/Agency allocations.

For example, the CARES Act allocates an additional $100 million for the Safe Schools and Citizenship Education program, which will be used to supplement Project SERV (School Emergency Response to Violence) funding to help K-12 schools and universities clean and disinfect affected schools and assist in counseling, distance learning, and associated costs.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services also provides $50 million in grant funding to states to expand digital network access, purchase internet accessible devices, and provide technical support services.

Other agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission, were provided funding for programs like the E-rate program, that provides subsidized funding to support schools and libraries with access to broadband during the pandemic.

Given these and other regulatory and financial supports, there are many opportunities to support schools and students through the pandemic, though it can feel like searching for a needle in the haystack to really uncover and understand many of the nuances in the regulatory changes and relief provisions. To better support with any of the regulatory questions and considerations, schools can review McGraw Hill’s website, which provides additional support regarding the CARES Act.

Divya Sridhar, Ph.D., is the Policy Advisor for Government Affairs at McGraw Hill. McGraw Hill is a learning science company, serving students, teachers, and faculty with customized print and digital educational content, software, and services for pre-K through postgraduate education. In her role, Divya supports thought leadership on the company’s education policy priorities, relationship building with federal state and local policymakers, and strategic advocacy for the company’s business units. Divya has 10 years of combined experience in healthcare and education policy and has worked on issues such as interoperability, district digital transformation, educational equity, student data privacy, and funding for instructional materials.



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