On July 20, the Ohio Controlling Board approved requests to appropriate $100 million additional CARES Act funding for K-12 schools. This funding comes from the Coronavirus Relief Fund of the CARES Act and is separate from the $440 million recently allocated from the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) Fund. These funds are allocated to districts using a base amount established by fiscal year 2019 enrollment data from the State Report Card, with additional money provided to districts to support economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English learners, as well as transportation obligations.
The funds are limited in purpose and must be used for such expenses as protective equipment, cleaning and sanitation, and remote learning. Federal guidance states that funds may only be used to cover previously unbudgeted costs of necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID–19 public health emergency between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 30, 2020.
The Ohio Department of Education will release additional guidance about how schools and districts will accept these funds and begin to draw the Coronavirus Relief Funds down. The district-by-district simulations for the distribution of funds can be accessed here.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) issued an Interim final rule regarding the use of CARES Act K-12 emergency relief funds for private schools. The rule is in response to disagreement over the method to distribute CARES Act funds to private schools for equitable services. This is important to public schools because USDOE’s application of the federal legislation in its interim final rule directs a disproportionate and inequitable amount of funding to private schools that was intended for public K-12 school districts.
The CARES Act requires equitable services to be provided “in the same manner as” Title I equitable services, which means that services should be provided based on the number of low-income students living in the local education agency who attend nonpublic schools.
The interim final rule provides districts with two options for implementing the CARES Act's equitable services requirement:
(1) If a district chooses to use CARES Act emergency funding only for Title I-eligible students, then it may elect to only set aside funding for equitable services for Title I-eligible students that attend private schools.
(2) If a district wishes to use CARES Act funding for all students, then the district must set aside funding to provide equitable services to all students that attend private schools in their region.
The interim final rule took effect on July 1 and has a comment period that expires on July 31.