Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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A Division of the Arkansas Department of Education

CARES Act

CARES Act – approved March 27, 2020

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the CARES Act, which is a $2 trillion package of assistance measures. The 880 page Act is available at https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr748/BILLS-116hr748enr.pdf.

The CARES Act provides States the opportunity to apply for waivers and to request funding.

1. Waivers

The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) requested the following waivers. Information regarding waivers and waiver requests will be updated on this webpage.

Federal Funds Waiver for Perkins – approved April 29, 2020

On April 16, 2020, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) submitted a letter to Scott Stump, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, requesting an extension of the period of availability of FY2018 Title I of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Act of 2006 which allows subrecipients until September 30, 2021, to expend these funds. The waiver was approved on April 29, 2020 by Scott Stump (approval letter). Submit public comment to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfa1qIcrveGmhY2BP3yFl_mCQE5WMz_qWhm1f2rG8al5OQB_g/viewform.

Federal Funds Waiver – approved April 21, 2020

On April 6, 2020, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) submitted a letter to Frank Brogan, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, requesting a waiver for federal fund carry-over restrictions, period of availability of funds, Title IV requirements, and the definition of professional development. The waiver was approved on April 21, 2020, by Frank Brogan (approval letter). Submit public comment to ade.essacomments@arkansas.gov.

Understanding the Federal Waivers – posted April 16, 2020

The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) developed a document to explain the impact of the federal waivers. DESE will update the document as more information becomes available. The document is available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N0fOukqQiuXGui7kmUUUFHysBJ02LCGL757LHKGwGSQ/edit?usp=sharing.

Assessment, Accountability and Reporting Waiver - approved March 27, 2020

On March 23, 2020, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) submitted a letter to Frank Brogan, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, requesting a waiver from assessment, accountability and reporting 2020. The waiver was approved on March 27, 2020, by Frank Brogan (approval letter). Submit public comment to ade.essacomments@arkansas.gov.

2. Funding

The CARES Act provides multiple opportunities for funding. As funding opportunities become available for public school districts and nonpublic schools, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will provide information and updates to this webpage. Additional information about CARES Act funding is available at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund

Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. The U.S. Department of Education (USED) will award these grants to State educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are LEAs, with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation. Additional information about the ESSER Fund is available at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/elementary-secondary-school-emergency-relief-fund/.

Arkansas Application for ESSER Funds - Approved May 14, 2020

On May 12, 2020, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) applied for $128,758,638.00 ESSER funds. The submitted application is available here. The application was approved on May 14, 2020 and funds became available on May 14, 2020.

Equitable Services - Revised 9/25/20

LEAs that receive ESSER funds must provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools located within the LEA. LEAs must engage in timely and meaningful consultation with representatives of non-public schools. Please see Commissioner's Memo COM-21-029.

Highlighted points regarding Equitable Services:

  • A non-public school is a non-profit elementary or secondary school in operation prior to March 13, 2020.
  • The LEA is responsible for initiating the consultation process with all non-public schools to which the public LEA has students attending, even if the non-public previously refused services. Funds cannot be sent directly to non-public schools.
  • Written consultation and equitable services plan for ESSER funds must be uploaded into the ESSER folder in Indistar (see COM-21-029).
  • Questions or complaints should be sent to the State Ombudsman. Information about the Ombudsman is available at http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/divisions/public-school-accountability/federal-programs/ombudsman-federal-programs-equitable-services.

Maintenance of Effort

As a condition of receiving ESSER funds, States must maintain support for elementary and secondary education in FY2020 and FY2021 at least at the levels of support that is the average of such State's support for elementary and secondary education in the three fiscal years preceding March 27, 2020. Information about maintenance of effort is posted on the DESE website at http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/divisions/fiscal-and-administrative-services/lea-federal-funding/maintenance-of-effort.

Continue to Compensate Employees

To the greatest extent practicable, recipients of ESSER funds must continue to pay their employees and contractors during COVID-19 disruptions or closures. More guidance is available at https://www2.ed.gov/documents/coronavirus/factsheet-fiscal-questions.pdf

Technical Assistance

DESE will provide technical assistance to LEAs through Commissioner's Memos, webinars, and upon request. General technical assistance will be posted on this webpage. Please send specific requests to ade.esser@arkansas.gov.

Topic Date Supporting Documents
CARES Act – ESSER Funds Webinar May 18, 2020 (9:00am) Watch Recording

Memo # Memo Title Date Posted
FIN-20-042 CARES Funding Data 4/29/2020
COM-20-119 CARES Act – ESSER Funds Webinar – May 18, 2020 5/13/2020
COM-20-120 CARES Act - webpage, LEA application, and webinar 5/15/2020
FIN-20-047 2019-20 Preliminary CARES Allocations 5/15/2020
FIN-20-054 2019-20 Preliminary CARES Allocations with Equitable Services Set Aside 6/16/2020
COM-21-029
CARES Act Equitable Services 
9/25/2020

Reporting

DESE must submit, within 60 days of receiving ESSER funds, a budget for the SEA reserve and an internal control and subrecipient monitoring plan.

DESE must submit quarterly reports to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) "at such time and containing such information as the USED may reasonably require in the future". Reporting shall include financial reporting and evidence of all expenditures with ESSER funds. Additional reporting may include methodology of equitable services and demonstration or evidence that services were provided by LEAs; use of funds to address the digital divide; and funds used to support remote learning for all students, including disadvantaged populations.

 

USED may request additional reporting, such as but not limited to a detailed list of all projects and activities supported with ESSER Funds including name, description, estimated number of jobs created or retained, and detailed information on subcontracts and subgrantees.

LEAs will utilize eFinance to report financial expenditures. LEAs will be responsible for supporting evidence and documentation of expenditures for reporting and audit purposes.

At the end of the fiscal year, the LEA will also upload the expenditure ledger for ESSER funds into Indistar.

DESE is required to monitor LEA expenditures of ESSER funds.

Focus of ESSER Funds

DESE has established four focus areas for funding LEAs. LEAs may select all that apply:

  • FOOD SECURITY: Many districts continued to provide meals to students during this emergency, utilizing different options to best meet the needs of the students, families and communities. It is expected that districts will continue to monitor the needs in their communities and make decisions about how they continue to operate food service programs to ensure food security. The ESSER funds may address district expenses in food service programs due to COVID-19 that have not been covered by other funds or reimbursements, and there may be ongoing costs for districts that continue to operate meal service during the summer and in preparation for the fall that should be considered.
  • DIRECT STUDENT SUPPORT/CONTINUOUS LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES: Decisions for direct student support and continuous learning opportunities may include supplemental work days or contracted services that help prepare for the return to on-site instruction or days where students are actively under the supervision/instruction of personnel. Other types of support include, screening/formative/diagnostic assessment tools, interventions, preparation and testing for industry-recognized credentials, online learning modules, targeted summer programs, professional development, licenses for learning and simulation software, special population resources for at-risk students, mobile hands-on learning labs, and development of video lessons for skill attainment training. Districts should consider the learning needs of each child and the resources needed to address those needs.
  • TECHNOLOGY: During the long-term remote learning period, the value of appropriate technology and use of effective technology tools has become an integral component of successful AMI plans. Districts should consider technology that supports remote learning or AMI that aligns with the district continuity of learning and operations plan (district support plan); this should be technology that supports blended learning models and enables students to learn from home and for teachers to teach essential standards. Technology that supports connectivity or adaptation of educational content to synchronous or asynchronous learning would be an appropriate consideration. Internet connectivity purchases should be compliant with the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The use of ESSER funds for remote learning, which includes distance education as defined in ESEA section 8101 (14), so that students can continue learning during school closures should be considered priority. Purchases such as on-site computer labs, smart boards, etc. do not align with the priorities of the CARES Act.
  • SYSTEMIC PROCEDURES: Systemic procedures can be defined as actions or systems that the school district implements in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and for recovery efforts that contribute to the return to onsite instruction for students and staff.

Who is eligible to apply for ESSER Funds?

LEAs (districts and charter schools) that receive Title I funds. Please see the USED guidance on how to calculate ESSER funds at https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/05/ESSER-Fund-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf.

What are the funding allocations for LEAs?

Allocations will be posted on the DESE website at http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/divisions/fiscal-and-administrative-services/lea-federal-funding/allocations.

What is the timeline for ESSER funds?

LEAs must obligate ESSER funds by September 30, 2022.

What are allowable expenditures of ESSER funds?

Expenditures must be reasonable, necessary and allocable under section 18003(d) of Division B of the CARES Act. Funds should be used to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have on elementary and secondary public and participating non-public schools. Funds should address the district's continuity of learning and operations plan (district support plan). Funds should be utilized to prepare for remote learning, returning to onsite learning, and blended learning. Funds should address all teachers and students, including special populations and students most at-risk. CARES Act Section 18003 (d) outlines twelve (12) uses of funds. Those 12 uses of funds are included in the LEA application and assurances. COVID-19 related expenditures coded using the subject code CV that meet these guidelines may be paid from ESSER funds if expended on and after March 13, 2020.

What are the funding codes for ESSER funds?

The ESSER funding codes are available here.

What are the retention requirements for ESSER funds records?

Financial records, supporting (primary) documents, and all documentation of reasonable, necessary, and allocable must be retained for four (4) years from the date of submission of the final expenditure report. 2 CFR § 200.333

What are unallowable expenditures of ESSER funds?

LEAs are not allowed to use funds to (1) subsidize or offset executive salaries and benefits of individuals who are not employees of the SEA or LEA; or (2) expenditures related to state or local teacher or faculty unions or associations.

LEA Application and Assurance for ESSER Funds

Eligible LEAs should complete the application and assurances document and upload into the ESSER folder in Indistar by May 29, 2020. The LEA Assurances and Application for CARES Act – ESSER Fund is available in Word or PDF.

Section 427 of GEPA - Required

Eligible LEAs should complete Section 427 of GEPA, available in Word, and upload into the ESSER Folder in Indistar by June 30, 2020. Guidance is available at https://www2.ed.gov/fund/grant/apply/appforms/gepa427.pdf.

Contact Information for ESSER Funds

Please send any questions to ade.esser@arkansas.gov.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions submitted to ade.esser@arkansas.gov will be compiled into a FAQ document.

Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund

Congress set aside approximately $3 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Additional information about the GEER fund is available at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/education-stabilization-fund/governors-emergency-education-relief-fund/.

State Standards

Learn more about the standards that define the knowledge and skills Arkansas students should have in order to be ready for college and careers.

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Licensure & Certification

Find critical information about renewing Arkansas educator licenses, adding areas of licensure, licensing by reciprocity from other states, background checks and more.

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ESSA

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