EXPLANATION OF REQUEST
||The Ohio Department of Education respectfully requests Controlling Board approval to create a new fund, the CARES Act School Relief Fund (Fund 3HS0), and to establish appropriation authority in the amount of $100,000,000 for FY20 and $180,000,000 for FY21 in fund 3HS0, ALI 200640 (CARES Act School Relief) to support the responses to the coronavirus pandemic by Ohio's schools and districts.
||On March 27, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, authorizing $2.2 trillion in federal economic aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the act provided relief funding to primary and secondary schools through an overarching Educational Stabilization Fund, with states receiving approximately $13.5 billion under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) and another $3 billion through the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund.
On April 23, the U.S. Department of Education released its State Allocation Table for the ESSER Fund, allocating $489,205,200 of those emergency funds to Ohio. On May 5, Ohio submitted an application to US Department of Education and received approval on May 8. ODE is seeking $100,000,000 in appropriation for FY20 and $180,000,000 for FY21 based on the appropriation limit in ORC 131.35(E). If additional appropriation is needed in FY21, ODE will seek legislative action. Schools can request reimbursement for expenditures from March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2022.
Funding is divided into three parts:
Formula Distribution to Schools and Districts $440,284,680
State Activities $48,920,520
The largest amount (90%) is allocated by formula to traditional districts and community schools. The formula funds are based on the percentage of Title I funds that a school district receives. Title I funding is distributed based on federal census data, with adjustments for students who leave their traditional district for a community school. A portion of these funds must be set-aside for equitable services for non-public schools. ODE released allocations to traditional districts and community schools on May 4, which are attached to this request. Allocations represent about 85% of Title I awards.
While these funds are allocated using the Title I formula, the allowable uses are not restricted to be used for Title I purposes. The allowable uses of the ESSER funds are fairly broad and include the following:
1. Any allowable activities under existing federal funds including Title funds (ESEA), Special Education (IDEA), Career-Tech (Perkins), and Homeless (McKinney-Vento) grant funding.
2. Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of schools with state and local public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
3. Providing principals and others school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.
4. Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth.
5. Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of schools.
6. Training and professional development for staff of the school on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
7. Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local educational agency, including buildings operated by such agency.
8. Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for online learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements for students with disabilities, and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be.
9. Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students.
10. Providing mental health services and supports.
11. Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after school programs.
12. Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency.
Schools and districts will be able to claim reimbursement for allowable expenditures back to March 13, the date of the federal emergency declaration. On May 15, ODE made an application template available to all districts. Schools and districts can submit applications to ODE beginning May 26. Like all over federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education, funds will be drawn down by school districts on a reimbursement basis. Schools must submit an application, receive approval from ODE, and then submit claims for reimbursement based on the application they submit and allowable uses of the funds. ODE will fast-track applications for schools who need to draw down funds prior to the close of FY20. Many schools will use these funds over the next year, or longer. The period of availability for these funds is through September 30, 2022.
While the formula portion of the grant is most critical to disburse, a significant amount of funding is set-aside for state activities ($48.9 million). These activities include the same allowable uses as the formula funds to school districts, but may take a statewide approach in Ohio's response to COVID-19. ODE is working closely with the Governor's Office and external stakeholders on how best to make use of these funds. Ohio will report to the U.S. Department of Education within 60 on how these funds will be used. Possible uses include supporting a remote K-12 learning infrastructure, supporting the whole child - especially Ohio's most vulnerable students, and immediate costs associated with planning for education recovery and school re-opening. Because Joint Vocational School Districts (JVSDs) and Educational Service Centers (ESCs) do not receive Title I funds, they are not automatically entitled to CARES Act funding. ODE is working to determine how best to support JVSDs and ESCs, who are also working to respond to the pandemic, which may include a portion of the state activity funds.