COVID-19 Stimulus Package and What It Means For K-12 Private Schools

Earlier today, the United States House of Representatives used a voice vote to pass an enormous $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package—the largest such bill in United States history. The bill will now head to President Trump for signature, which is expected to happen quickly.

We know that many of you have questions about what the stimulus might mean for your schools. With that in mind, the ACE Policy team has conducted an initial analysis of those portions of the bill that affect K-12 private schools.

The bill is 880 pages long, but private schools will want to pay particular attention to Sections 18002, 18003, and 18005, which begin on page 754. These sections deal with how emergency education funds (totaling $30.75 billion) will be allocated across states and local educational agencies.

Below is an initial overview of all three main sections and how they connect to private schools.

Overview of CARES Act Provisions Related K-12 Private Education

Section 18002 (p. 754, line 12) – Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (about 10 percent of the total funding available)

This section allows states to submit applications for grant money from the federal government. That grant money will be allocated based on states’ relative population of students between the ages of 5 and 24, as well as the relative number of school-age children counted for federal funding purposes under the current Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA).

States can use the funds awarded under this section for the following purposes:

  • Providing emergency grants to local educational agencies (school districts) that the state education agency (state department of ed) deems to have been most significantly impacted by coronavirus
  • Providing emergency grants to institutions of higher education serving students that the governor deems to have been most significantly affected by coronavirus
  • Provide support to “any other institution of higher education, local educational agency, or education-related entity within the state that the governor deems essential for carrying out emergency services to students for [higher education], the provision of child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs.”
Section 18003 (p. 756, line 12) – Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (about 40 percent of the total funding available)

This section allows states to apply for emergency relief grants from the federal government. Funds will be allocated by the proportion of Title I, Part A funding received by states under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

States can use these funds to provide subgrants to local educational agencies (school districts) for the following purposes:

  • Any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NOTE: this would include services for low-income and at-risk students), the Individuals with Disabilities Act, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and a variety of other existing federal laws.
  • Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies to fight coronavirus
  • “Providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools” (i.e., unrestricted block grants)
  • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless and foster students, etc.
  • Training and professional development for staff of the local educational agency on sanitation and infectious disease suppression
  • Purchasing sanitizing and/or cleaning supplies
  • Planning for and coordinating long-term closures, provision of meals to eligible students, provision of technology for online learning to all students, provision of services to students with disabilities, etc.
  • Purchasing educational technology for students that aids in “regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors”
  • Providing mental health services and support
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including summer learning for low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, homeless students, and foster students.
  • “Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation and continuity of services in local educational agencies”
Section 18005 (P. 764, line 11) – Assistance to Non-Public Schools

This is the big one—the section that allows K-12 private schools to access the assistance under the CARES Act.

Section 18005 allows K-12 private schools to access, through their local school districts, “equitable services” under Sections 18002 and 18003 above. Note that, as with current equitable services under federal law, schools CANNOT receive actual funding under those sections. They CAN, however, receive fully or partially subsidized services covered under the CARES Act. 

(UPDATE: Upon further guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, it seems that governors may indeed be able to send funds directly to private schools or families under the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund should they so choose.)

To better understand how the equitable services process works, please see this white paper. Note that the paper focuses primarily on Colorado. While federal requirements for equitable services cover all states, exact processes may vary in your state and/or locality. For specific questions, the best person to contact in is your state department of education’s Equitable Services Ombudsman. You can find an official directory of all state ombudsmen here

What comes next?

The passage of the CARES Act is a massive step, but the conversation is not over. Both the United States Department of Education and state departments of education will need to have significant discussions about how funding is allocated under these grant programs. And private schools will still need to interface with their local school districts to access equitable services under the act.

Further, which allocation formulae states adopt with regard to equitable services for private schools could have large impacts on how many resources are ultimately made available on the ground. ACE will be watching these conversations closely and will follow up with you as needed.