California Receives Preliminary Federal Approval to Free Up Funds for Crisis Response

April 13 announcement from the California Department of Education:

The U.S. Department of Education has granted preliminary approval to California’s request for flexibility in using federal funds to ease the immediate impacts of COVID-19 school closures.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond submitted the request for waivers, authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, on Friday, April 10, 2020. The waivers were approved today.

The waivers loosen restrictions on how and when federal education funds can be spent. They remove a cap on technology purchases, ease limits on the amount of unspent federal funds that can be carried over from one federal fiscal year to the next, and relax rules about the use of money for teacher professional development.

“With this much needed flexibility, the state can shift resources to such pressing needs as training our workforce on distance learning and building up our technology infrastructure,” said Superintendent Tony Thurmond. “In this time of crisis, the ability to quickly direct resources to needs is critically important.”

Board President Darling-Hammond thanked the U.S. Department of Education for helping California’s efforts to improve online learning during this unprecedented time of crisis. “We are pleased that the federal government responded so quickly to our requests,” said Darling-Hammond. “In this time of great uncertainty, being assured that we can repurpose this money to address urgent concerns is a great relief.”

Specifically, California received preliminary waivers from:

  • Section 1127(b) of Title I, Part A of the ESEA so that your State educational agency (SEA) may waive, more than once every three years, if necessary, the 15 percent carryover limitation in ESEA section 1127(a) for fiscal year (FY) 2019 Title I, Part A funds.
  • Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) to extend the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for programs in which your SEA participates under its approved consolidated State plan until September 30, 2021.
  • Section 4106(d) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA related to local educational agency (LEA) needs assessments for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA with respect to content-area spending requirements for FYs 2018 and 2019 Title IV, Part A funds.
  • Section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA with respect to the spending limitation for technology infrastructure for FYs 2018 and 2019 Title IV, Part A funds.
  • Section 8101(42) of the ESEA, which defines “professional development,” for activities funded for the 2019-2020 school year.

In compliance with federal regulations, the state is accepting public comment on the waiver application through May 1. Please send comments via email to or by mail to the California Department of Education, Government Affairs Division, 1430 N Street, Suite 5602, Sacramento, CA 95814-5901.

To view this press release on the CDE website, click here.