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New Department of Ed Portal Gives Snapshot of CARES Act Ed Funding

On the six-month anniversary of the signing of the CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Education has launched on online portal intended to show how much states have spent of their education allocations for K-12 districts and colleges and universities. However, because the site is relying on data submitted by schools up to Sept. 30, the numbers don't tell a complete story yet.

The site provides details on three components of the Education Stabilization Fund:

  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), which totaled $13.2 billion;
  • The Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER), which was $14 billion; and
  • GEER, the Governor's Emergency Education Relief, which totaled $3 billion.

That adds up to $30.2 billion. However, the site only reflects fund awards equaling about 37 percent of the total, or $11.35 billion.

For ESSER funds, about 12 percent of the total has been spent; for HEER funds, 64 percent has been spent; and for GEER funds, 18 percent has been spent.

According to the agency, eight state recipients had spent less than 1 percent of their ESSER awards. For GEER spending alone, 34 governors hadn't spent more than 1 percent of their allocated funding.

Agency Secretary DeVos used the award data to take states and schools to task for demanding additional funding in a new round of relief.

"The CARES Act was passed to provide schools the resources they needed to protect students and teachers and ensure learning continues," DeVos said in a statement. "We awarded the CARES Act money quickly. This portal now provides transparency into what happened next. States that neglected their obligations to provide full-time education, while complaining about a lack of resources, have left significant sums of money sitting in the bank. There may be valid reasons for states to be deliberate in how they spend CARES Act resources, but these data make clear there is little to support their claims of being cash-poor.

"I hope parents, teachers and local leaders will use this information to advocate for an immediate safe return to learning for all students. Our children's futures and therefore our nation's future, depend on it."

The agency went on to suggest that the "slow expenditure rates" demonstrate that states "are banking CARES Act funds to offset potential revenue declines next year. While such action technically may be permitted under the CARES Act, the department believes that is neither the intent of the emergency funding nor in the best interest of students, families or teachers."

The portal provides a way for users to view the amounts awarded and spent in total and broken out by program, across the entire country and by individual state. While state data is downloadable into an Excel format, the Department hasn't yet made the entire data set available for download. Nor does it provide any type of information about how the funds were spent.

Also, the portal doesn't take into account a source of school funding made available to private and charter schools but not public schools. Some 6,600 private and charter schools received an estimated $5.7 billion in loans from a completely separate CARES Act funding source — the Paycheck Protection Program. In cases where at least 60 percent of PPP loans were used to cover payroll costs over 24 weeks, the first six months of the funding program, the loans were forgivable, converting them into grants.

By early next year, the department noted, it would expand the portal's capabilities and allow state and IHE grantees under ESF to submit annual reports. It's unknown how those plans will play out under a new administration.

The portal is openly available through the Department of Education website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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