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Education department says states can repurpose school funding for online learning

April 6, 2020
Nation's governors want the department to expedite disbursal of emergency funds.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says states can repurpose existing K-12 education funding to help schools handle shifts to distance learning during the coronavirus crisis, but she has not addressed a request made by the nation’s governors for rapid disbursement of billions of dollars in new federal relief aid.

The Washington Post reports that the National Governors Association has asked DeVos to distribute to states within two weeks the more than $30 billion allocated to schools in the emergency funding legislation approved last month..

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act includes $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund dedicated to three streams: K-12 schools, higher education and governors. Governors are to receive $3 billion directly in flexible funding they can distribute toward any education need they want; the rest of the money will go to state education agencies and institutions of higher education.

“The more than $30 billion in education funding will be a lifeline to educators and students during this time of unprecedented uncertainty,” the governors said in a letter to DeVos. “States need time to establish both structures to evaluate student needs and processes to rapidly deploy these funds. That work cannot begin until the department provides guidance about how and when it will send funding to the states. We urge the department to act quickly to distribute these funds.

DeVos has announced a streamlined process that will provide states flexibility to use existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning. The flexibility requires states to seek a waiver from the department.

“Local leaders have asked for the ability to steer more resources to local needs, and these new tools will help them do just that,” DeVos says.

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