Today, the U.S. Department of Education issued its initial guidance and application materials for states to apply for more than $13 billion in federal funds to support K-12 schools in the midst of the Covid19 crisis. Congress allocated the funds for this purpose by setting up the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (“ESSER”) Fund in the CARES Act.
The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center engaged intensively with Congress as the CARES Act was shaped to ensure that Jewish and other nonpublic schools — which are facing their own financial and operational challenges, alongside public K-12 schools, as a result of the pandemic — would receive support through any such federal relief programs.
The ESSER Fund provides $13.5 billion directly to states to help schools respond to coronavirus and related school closures; meet the immediate needs of students and teachers; improve the use of education technology; support distance education; and make up for lost learning time. The funds may be used for items including:
- any activity under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
- procuring supplies to sanitize and clean facilities;
- planning for closures;
- spending for educational technology, mental health support and other needs.
The initial guidance issued by the Department of Education makes clear that states receiving ESSER Fund monies must “provide equitable services to teachers and students in nonpublic schools” as the CARES Act mandates.
Today’s announcement follows a similar one issued last week by the Education Department which rolled out another source of support for K-12 schools in the pandemic — the Governors Emergency Education Relief (“GEER”) Fund, also created by the CARES Act and also carrying the requirement to equitably support nonpublic schools.
[Full guidance and information can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus]
Said Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament:
“We appreciate the commitment by the U.S. Department of Education to respond aggressively to this unprecedented crisis and its commitment to ensure all America’s schools and students receive the support they need. The CARES Act’s funding for K-12 schools is a lifeline for our schools across the country, which are struggling under the tremendous strain of the coronavirus.”
Said Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane:
“We urge America’s Governors to promptly apply for the ESSER and GEER funds and the Education Department to act swiftly to distribute these funds so that educators, students and families alike can get the support they so desperately need during these trying and uncertain times.”