Virginia gets approval for flexibility in federal education funds

Some parents in the valley said paying teachers more would benefit their children's education....
Some parents in the valley said paying teachers more would benefit their children's education. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 7, 2020 at 3:03 PM EDT
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Virginia's Superintendent of Public Instruction, James Lane, announced on Tuesday that the federal Department of Education had approved Virginia’s application for additional flexibility in the use of federal education funds.

The application was authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

On Monday, Lane submitted Virginia’s request for waivers from provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the General Education Provisions Act that govern how and when federal education funds must be spent by states and local school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education granted preliminary approval two hours later and authorized Virginia to implement the waivers, pending formal approval.

“Without this flexibility, Virginia school divisions would have had to return millions of dollars in federal funding — most of it supporting programs serving vulnerable students — that they were unable to spend by September 30 due to the closure of schools to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Lane said.

“These waivers will also allow divisions and the Virginia Department of Education to shift federal resources to supporting the technology and professional development for teachers necessary to expand distance-learning opportunities for all students,” Lane said.

The waivers ease limits on the amount of unspent federal funds school divisions may carry over from one federal fiscal year to the next.

The waivers also remove caps on how much federal money school divisions may use to purchase technology, and loosen rules on the use of federal funds to support professional development for teachers.

Details of the approved waivers are as follows:

• Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act — Extends the availability of federal fiscal year 2018 ESSA funds until September 30, 2021. Waiver applies to Title I, Part A; Title I, Part C; Title I, Part D; Title II, Part A; Title III, Part A; Title IV, Part A; Title IV, Part B; Title V, Part B, Subpart 2; and the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program.

• Section 1127(b) of ESSA — Allows school divisions to request a waiver from the Title I, Part A, carry-over limitation for federal fiscal year 2019. Virginia is also waiving the 2019 Title V, Part B, Subpart 2, carry-over limitation.

• Title IV, Part A — Removes spending thresholds under sections 4107, 4108, and 4109 of ESSA, including the 15% spending limitation to purchase technology infrastructure, for 2018 and 2019 funding.

• Section 8101(42) of ESSA — Waives definition of “professional development” for the 2019-2020 school year. Intent of this waiver is to permit divisions to conduct time-sensitive, one-time, or stand-alone professional development on effective distance learning and/or other professional development activities to address COVID-19 concerns.

“I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Education for its swift approval of our waiver request,” Lane said. “This additional flexibility will help our schools meet the needs of students during the pandemic and after.”