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                                                                                                   April 16, 2020

CARES Act Elementary and Secondary Education Provisions

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and
Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) was
signed into law. The law includes several provisions that
apply to elementary and secondary education, including
new waiver authority for the Secretary of Education (the
Secretary), the creation of the Education Stabilization Fund
(ESF), and additional funding for the Project School
Emergency Response to Violence program, more
commonly known as Project SERV. This In Focus provides
an overview of these provisions.

The COVID- 19 Pandemic Education Relief Act of 2020,
included as Title III-B of the CARES Act, provides for
waivers primarily related to the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act (ESEA). Section 3511 of the CARES Act
allows the Secretary, upon request of a state educational
agency (SEA), local educational agency (LEA), or Indian
tribe, to grant waivers of various statutory or regulatory
provisions if the Secretary determines that such a waiver is
necessary and appropriate due to the coronavirus
emergency determined to exist by the President under
Section 501(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and
Emergency Assistance Act (hereinafter referred to as the
coronavirus emergency).

The Secretary is required to create a streamlined application
process for SEAs (including the Bureau of Indian Education
[BIE]) and Indian tribes to request a waiver of any statutory
or regulatory requirement for an SEA related to educational
assessments, accountability, and reporting requirements
pertaining to assessments and accountability under Section
1111 of the ESEA or Section 421(b) of the General
Education Provisions Act (GEPA) (which concerns the
extension of the period available for the obligation and
expenditure of appropriated funds). The Secretary may
grant such waivers using the streamlined application
process if she determines that such waivers are necessary
and appropriate due to the coronavirus emergency.

Any school located in a state that receives a waiver of any
provisions included under the streamlined process that is
identified for comprehensive support and improvement,
targeted support and improvement, or additional targeted
support and improvement for the 2019-2020 school year
under Section 1111 of the ESEA will maintain that
identification status for the 2020-2021 school year and
continue to receive supports and interventions that are
consistent with the school's support and improvement plan
in the 2020-2021 school year.

Waivers of ESEA provisions may also be requested under a
second waiver request process. For an SEA (including the

BIE), LEA (including a BIE-funded school), or Indian tribe
that receives funding under the ESEA and requests a waiver
using the waiver process described below, the Secretary
may waive statutory and regulatory provisions of the ESEA
related to, for example, maintenance of effort (MOE),
provisions under the Student Support and Academic
Enrichment (SSAE) grant program (Title IV-A), and the
definition of professional development that applies to the
ESEA. To receive a waiver, the request must describe how
the emergency related to the coronavirus restricts the ability
of the state, SEA, LEA, Indian tribe, or school to comply
with such statutory or regulatory requirements and include
an assurance that the SEA, LEA, or Indian tribe will work
to mitigate any negative effects that may occur as a result of
the requested waiver. The Secretary is required to approve
or disapprove a waiver request submitted under this process
within 30 days after the date on which the request was

Any waiver approved by the Secretary under the provisions
of the CARES Act may be for a period not to exceed the
2019-2020 academic year, except to carry out the full
implementation of any MOE waivers granted during the
2019-2020 academic year. The CARES Act prohibits the
Secretary from waiving any statutory or regulatory
provision related to civil rights.

Not later than seven days after granting a waiver under
Section 3511, the Secretary must notify Congress about the
waiver. Not later than 30 days after granting a waiver under
Section 3511, the Secretary must publish a notice of her
decision to do so in the Federal Register and on the U.S.
Department of Education's (ED's) website.

In addition, not later than 30 days after the enactment of the
CARES Act, the Secretary is required to prepare and submit
a report to Congress on any additional waivers under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ESEA,
and Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of
2006 that she believes are necessary to be enacted into law
to provide limited flexibility to SEAs and LEAs to meet the
needs of students during the coronavirus emergency.

The ESF is comprised of three emergency education relief
funds: (1) a Governor's Emergency Education Relief
(GEER) Fund (Section 18002), (2) an Elementary and
Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund
(Section 18003), and (3) a Higher Education Emergency
Relief (HEER) Fund (Section 18004). The HEER Fund is
not discussed further in this In Focus. The ESF has an
appropriations level of $30.750 billion for FY2020. The
funds are to remain available through September 30, 2021,
and be administered by ED.

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