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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

US Department of Education approves process for flexibility in spending

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has granted preliminary approval of Oklahoma waivers allowing public school districts greater flexibility in the spending of existing federal funds.

Less than 24 hours after State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister made the request, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) received notification by USDE that it had been approved.

“We are grateful to USDE for its swift response to our waiver request loosening restrictions on when and how our school districts may spend down their federal funds,” said Hofmeister. “This is a critical step in giving school leaders much-needed latitude as they face the economic uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The waivers allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for a number of COVID-19-related matters, including technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning. Additional flexibilities would allow schools to redirect resources to areas of highest need.

Waivers include:

Section 1127(b) of Title I, Part A of the ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965) allowing the SEA to waive the 15% carryover limitation in ESEA section 1127(a) for FY 2019 Title I, Part A funds more than once every three years; 

Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) to extend the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for programs in which an School Education Authority (SEA) participates under its approved consolidated State plan until September 30, 2021, namely Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, Title V, Part B programs, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth program; 

Section 4106(d) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA requiring an LEA to have a needs assessment to justify the use of funds for the 2019-20 school year; 

Section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA with respect to content-area spending requirements (i.e., 20% for well-rounded education, 20% for safe and healthy schools, etc.); 

Section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA with respect to the spending limitation for technology infrastructure (i.e., prohibiting more than 15% of funds for purchasing technology infrastructure, including devices, equipment, and software applications); and 

Section 8101(42) of the ESEA, to waive the definition of “professional development” which might otherwise limit the ability to quickly train school leaders and teachers on topics like effective distance learning practices. 

Oklahoma districts may immediately begin implementing matters authorized under the waiver.

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