The COVID-19 crisis has rapidly changed our daily lives. Around the country, schools and communities are grappling with how to ensure that students are safe and have access to vital services. Charter schools, which on average serve higher percentages of low-income students and students of color than do district-operated schools, have been especially proactive in serving the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community. The National Alliance Federal team has advocated for the equitable treatment of charter schools in COVID-19 relief packages.
COVID-19 Relief Packages
- H.R. 6094 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (COVID-19 Package #1): The initial COVID-19 relief package was signed into law on March 6, 2020. The package includes $8.3 billion in emergency funding for vaccine development, research, and supporting state and local health budgets.
- H.R. 6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act (COVID-19 Package #2): The second COVID-19 relief package was signed into law on March 18, 2020. This package includes $1 billion in nutritional aid, expands access to COVID-19 testing, and expands sick leave benefits.
- H.R. 748 – Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act (COVID-19 Package #3): The third COVID-19 relief package was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This package will provide $2 trillion in relief for impacted industries, a boost to unemployment insurance, and direct cash payments to many Americans. The bill includes a $30 billion Education Stabilization Fund, including $13.5 billion to state education agencies and local education agencies (LEAs) in formula funding and $3 billion in flexible formula funding for states to allocate as they see fit between K-12 and higher education. The National Alliance advocated for charter schools to receive equitable allocations in funding as well as access to all federal education waivers as public schools.
On May 12, 2020, the National Alliance detailed the critical needs of K-12 students in future relief funding in a letter addressed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
U.S. Department of Education Information and Resources
The U.S. Department of Education continues to share resources and updated information for schools at ed.gov/coronavirus. Some critical highlights include:
- Serving children with disabilities: An initial question and answer document addresses responsibilities to children with disabilities, their families, and to the staff serving these children. In response to continued concerns about providing distance instruction, a supplemental fact sheet clarifies the implications of federal requirements in the context of offering remote learning to all students and serving students with disabilities. For more information, see the COVID-19 and Students with Disabilities page at the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools.
- Ensuring students have access to school meals: Schools can leverage their participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Check the USDA website for updates on school meals in areas impacted by COVID-19.
- Assessment and accountability waivers for the 2019-20 school year: On March 20, 2020, the Secretary of Education announced that the Department of Education would grant accountability waivers to states unable to conduct testing due to the national emergency. Any state receiving a waiver would also be exempt from using this testing data in statewide accountability systems. It’s reported that as of April 1, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Bureau of Indian Education had all been granted initial approval of assessment waivers. Charter schools are required to access the receive same waivers as all public schools, consistent with state charter school law.
The National Alliance continues to advocate for charter schools during this crisis. For other resources for charter schools, see COVID-19 resources for Charter Schools. Please reach out with questions or to share resources with the charter school community.