Latest Federal Relief Package Further Restricts Uses of Funds for Private Schools

U.S Department of Education Invites Public Comment by April 26

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the third major COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress, was signed into law last month. It provides over $125 billion in federal funding to assist the nation’s public schools in meeting the academic, social-emotional, and health needs of students in the pandemic.

The ARPA also allocates $2.75 billion for private schools through the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) Program created by the previous COVID-19 federal relief law, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA).

But the CRRSAA placed many restrictions on the use of EANS funds for private schools, which continue to apply in the same or more stringent form in the ARPA. The restrictions on ARPA’s EANS funding include:

  • Permissible uses of the EANS funds are narrowly limited to COVID-related expenses, such as personal protective equipment, ventilation, and supports for remote learning;
  • EANS funds are not provided directly to private schools, but rather must remain in the control and under the supervision of public agencies, such as state education departments;
  • Services or assistance provided to private schools must be “secular, neutral, and non-ideological;”
  • Private schools receiving services or assistance through EANS funds cannot also receive Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans;
  • With the narrow exception of continuing to fund private school vouchers supported by money from the CARES Act (the first federal pandemic relief package), EANS funds cannot be used for any type of voucher program or to provide financial assistance to voucher-granting organizations.

Additionally, the ARPA places crucial new limitations on which private schools can receive EANS funds. While the CRRSAA said state education agencies must prioritize non-public schools that enroll low-income students, the ARPA’s directive is more concrete. It states that these funds must be used “to provide services or assistance to non-public schools that enroll a significant percentage of low-income students and are most impacted by the qualifying emergency.” This requirement will help steer the funds to those most in need, though it must be accompanied by clear federal guidance in order to ensure the money is used appropriately.

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) is now seeking public comment on implementation of the ARPA directive about EANS funds to private schools, including how to identify which students and schools meet the criteria in the Act. The invitation for public comments provides the opportunity for stakeholders, including parents, educators, and advocates, to help the USED guide states in how to put this directive into action in the most equitable and effective manner.

PFPS’s comments to the USED on the distribution of the EANS funds in the ARPA are available here.

PFPS urges public education supporters to submit comments to the USED by April 26. If you would like assistance in this regard, please contact PFPS at info@pfps.org.

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