Maintenance of Equity
Section 2004 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP Act) includes new maintenance of equity (MOEquity) provisions that are a condition for a State educational agency (SEA) and local educational agency (LEA) to receive funds under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. These provisions are central to ensuring that essential resources are meeting the needs of students who have been subject to longstanding opportunity gaps in our education system. These student groups have also experienced the greatest impact from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Maintenance of equity provisions will help ensure that schools and LEAs serving large proportions of historically underserved groups of students—including students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, and students experiencing homelessness—receive an equitable share of State and local funds as the Nation continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact. These schools and LEAs historically have been under-funded and are more reliant on State funding than are schools and LEAs with lower concentrations of underserved students. Accordingly, if State or local funds are cut, the maintenance of equity provisions ensure that LEAs and schools serving a large share of students from low-income backgrounds do not experience a disproportionate share of such cuts in fiscal years (FYs) 2022 and 2023, and that the highest poverty LEAs do not receive a decrease in State funding below their FY 2019 level.
The provisions in ARP ESSER that target funding to LEAs with concentrations of students from low-income families have the potential to be rendered ineffective without the safeguards of the maintenance of equity requirements. By protecting these LEAs from disproportionate funding cuts, and all cuts for the highest poverty LEAs compared to their FY 2019 level, maintenance of equity helps to ensure that vital resources are available to mitigate the impact that the pandemic has had, and continues to have, on underserved students, including addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs. In addition, the maintenance of equity provisions ensure that each LEA safeguards its high-poverty schools from disproportionate cuts to funding and staffing so that students from low-income families in each LEA are not disproportionately impacted by State and local cuts to vital resources.
DESE sought specific guidance from USDE regarding grade span definitions and has been advised to use those grade spans employed in the school reportcard data. Those grade spans are available here: https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/public-school-accountability/school-performance/report-card. For consistency, DESE will be using the same expenditure data that is used in reportcard data as well (state and local expenditures, as defined by federal reportcard guidance).
In an effort to assist all school districts in the state with meeting this requirement, the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has compiled data to establish a preliminary list of individual schools that are considered high poverty locations within each district according to the ARP legislation. These preliminary designations are posted to the DESE website at Maintenance of Equity for review.
The preliminary data developed by DESE uses FY21 Cycle 2 direct certification counts and enrollment to calculate a poverty parameter. It also uses a district-wide ranking method of all schools based on this poverty measure. There will be some adjustments to account for schools that have opened or closed since October 2020 so that the actual maintenance of effort analysis is conducted on current district structures.
The school district should review its specific preliminary information and decide if it wishes to make any changes according to those decision points provided to it in the ARP law. If the district does choose to use other poverty data or a grade span grouping method, it should notify DESE Federal Finance staff at the contacts below.