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Legislative Update

Education Funding under the CARES Act

By Jodi Peterson

Posted on 2020-04-21

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

As has been widely reported, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide about $30.750 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for states, school districts and institutions of higher education for costs related to coronavirus.

For elementary and secondary education, $13.5 billion is available for formula-grants to States, which will then distribute 90 percent of funds to local educational agencies (based on Title I eligibility) to use for coronavirus-response activities, such as planning for and coordinating during long-term school closures; purchasing educational technology to support online learning for all students served by the local educational agency; and additional activities authorized by federal elementary and secondary education laws including ESEA, IDEA, McKinney-Vento, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, and Perkins CTE.

Congress allocated $14.250 billion for higher education emergency relief for institutions of higher education to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. Funds may be used to defray expenses for institutions of higher education, such as lost revenue, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, and grants to students for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care.

Governors in each state will also receive a share of $3 billion to allocate at their discretion for emergency support grants to loacal educational agencies that the State educational agency deems have been most signigicantly impacted by coronavirus. These funds will support the ability of such local educational agencies to continue to provide educational services to their students and to support the on-going operations of the local educational agency; and provide emergency support through grants to institutions of higher education serving students within the State. 

Waivers, Testing and Accountability

On March 31 the U.S. Department of Education granted waivers to all 50 states to bypass federal requirement to test all of their students this year due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year.

The Department also unveiled a new streamlined process for providing states funding flexibilities during this national emergency. Schools can seek to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning, among other flexibilities, to move resources to areas of highest need.

In response to lawmakers' requests for information on the ongoing challenges schools face and recommendations to meet those challenges, NSTA and the STEM Eduation Coalition put together this letter with recommendations directed at Congress as it structures aid legislation to federal agencies as they organize to deal with this crisis.

When Will Schools Reopen?

Under the three-phase coronavirus recovery strategy floated last week by the White House, schools would stay closed during the first phase of recovery under the guidelines.  Schools and organized youth activities could reopen when states enter a re-opening's second phase after states proved there was no rebound in cases and specific protocols were met.

No timelines were set for these steps to start,  leaving the responsibility to governors to schedule when their states' residents can return to restaurants, gyms and offices. Many governors are forming multi-state councils that are working to coordinate openings in their states, including schools.

Federal Resources for COVID-19

The Department has established a dedicated Coronavirus webpage, which includes information for families and communities including at-home activities for students and parents; information on the CARES Act, information on federal student aid, and more.

New National Science Foundation Acting Director

The President has named Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Presidential Science Advisor, to serve as Acting Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), effective March 31, 2020. Droegemeier has been involved with NSF for more than three decades and served on the National Science Board for 12 years, the last four as Vice Chair. Dr. Droegemeier, who will continue his duties as OSTP Director, will serve as Acting Director as the U.S. Senate considers the nomination of Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, who was nominated to lead NSF by the President on December 19, 2019.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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