Federal Education Relief Aid (Resolution)
WHEREAS, state legislatures have the primary responsibility for funding and governing their state’s K-12 and higher education systems; and
WHEREAS, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund provided historic amounts of one-time federal funds that gave school districts, rather than states, discretion over how to spend ninety percent of funds; and
WHEREAS, school districts were granted unprecedented flexibility over how funds were spent; and
WHEREAS, states were expressly prohibited from directing or restricting school district spending; and
WHEREAS, school districts, by recent estimates, are expected to spend close to half of the total allocated local share of ESSER funds over the next year; and
WHEREAS, any pressure to rapidly draw down of tens of billions in ESSER funds may exacerbate inflation and potentially encourage local spending without a clear plan for sustainability; and
WHEREAS, a sudden and steep reduction in one-time funds, especially if spent on what are typically considered recurring expenses, could cause fiscal turmoil in school districts that state legislatures may be expected to respond to; and
WHEREAS, each state has its own unique system for funding K-12 and higher education; and
WHEREAS, fiscal conditions can vary significantly across states, especially during times of national economic emergencies; and
WHEREAS, education is a significant part of state budgets, other compelling priorities may make demands on state resources while states respond to and recovery from emergencies; and
WHEREAS, Congress has included maintenance of effort provisions for both K-12 and higher education funding from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2023 as a condition of a state receiving funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund; and
WHEREAS, Congress has also included “maintenance of equity” provisions for K-12 funding in fiscal years 2022 and 2023;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the National Conference of State Legislatures believes unanticipated federal funding for education should not bypass state legislative appropriations processes and should allow state legislatures broad discretion in determining how those funds will best meet local and state education needs; and
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the National Conference of State Legislatures believes Congress should extend the spending deadline for ESSER to December 31, 2026 in order to smooth the rate of school district spending, which could mitigate the inflationary impact of a rapid draw down of funds and give state legislatures more time to conduct oversight and evaluate whether and how certain ESSER expenditures could be sustained; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the National Conference of State Legislatures believes the U.S. Department of Education should implement an orderly and timely process for states and districts to request and receive permission for a late liquidation of funds well in advance of the ESSER III obligation deadline of September 30th, 2024; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Secretary of Education should allow states the opportunity to seek waivers from the maintenance of effort and “maintenance of equity” provisions associated with the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the National Conference of State Legislatures believes state fiscal requirements for education relief aid should only ask states to maintain aggregate funding levels or serve as a guide for how states can make cuts to education if facing revenue declines.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the National Conference of State Legislatures believes state fiscal requirements should not be used to compel states to make fiscal or policy decisions beyond the purposes enumerated above, which includes requiring states to increase funding for education or distribute funds to local education agencies by methods other than a state’s statutorily defined school funding formula.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that NCSL send a copy of this resolution to Members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.