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Department of Education announces $307.5 million for states in K-12 and postsecondary grant competitions

On April 27, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the launch of two new grant competitions for states “to create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.”

The $307.5 million in CARES Act funding will be divided between two grant competitions: $180 million for the Rethink K-12 School Models Grant and $127.5 million for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.

In a press release, Sec. DeVos said, “If our ability to educate is limited to what takes place in any given physical building, we are never going to meet the unique needs of every student. The current disruption to the normal model is reaffirming something I have said for years: we must rethink education to better match the realities of the 21st century. This is the time for local education leaders to unleash their creativity and ingenuity, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do to provide education freedom and economic opportunity for America’s students.”

The Rethink K-12 School Models Grant competition will “provide support to State educational agencies (SEAs) in States with the highest coronavirus burden to address specific educational needs of students, their parents, and teachers in public and non-public elementary and secondary schools in accordance with section 18001(a)(3) of the CARES Act.” The Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for this grant is available here.

The Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant competition will “provide support to help States leverage the power of entrepreneurship to create new educational opportunities and pathways that help citizens return to work, small businesses recover, and new entrepreneurs thrive. These programs also build new capacity within the state to offer short-term postsecondary programs that are responsive to the needs of individuals to more rapidly adapt and evolve to ever changing workplace and community needs.” An initial Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for this grant is available but contains limited information. A supplemental notice with additional information will be published later this week.

Rethink K-12 School Models Grant

The Rethink K-12 School Models Grant application will be available on April 30, 2020 and is due June 29, 2020. The application is open to state educational agencies for projects in one of three areas:

  1. Microgrants to allow parents to meet the educational needs of their school-age children.
  2. The development and/or expansion of a high-quality course-access program or statewide virtual school.
  3. Field-initiated models to address the specific educational needs as related to remote learning.

The NIA for this grant estimates the department will award 13-14 grants, or roughly four in each category, depending on the quality of the applications. The estimated average size for each award is $15 million with an estimated range of $5 million to $20 million. The duration of the project period can be up to 36 months.

The department will announce the award winners within 30 days of the deadline for applications to be submitted (June 29). Applications will be screened for eligibility, and peer reviewers will score each out of 100 points on the following selection criteria:

  1. Highest coronavirus burden (40 points).
  2. Quality of project services and project plan (up to 35 points).
  3. Quality of the management plan and adequacy of resources (up to 25 points).

For the first criteria, the Department released a percentile calculation of coronavirus burden by state. States that fall within the 81st to 100th percentile, including North Carolina, are awarded the most points. See the breakdown by state below.

For more on the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grants, including additional details on the three project areas, read the NIA here.

Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants

Far fewer details are currently available on the $127.5 million available for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant competition. The initial NIA does not specify who may apply for the grants, although it does say eligible applicants “may include State economic development or workforce agencies.”

The initial NIA also does not specify application date, specific project categories, or selection criteria, although it does state one of the criteria will be “highest coronavirus burden.” This criteria will include initial unemployment insurance claims filed (as percentage of civilian labor force) and state percentage share of confirmed coronavirus cases per capita.

The NIA states that the department estimates it will award eight to nine grants with an estimated average size of $15 million and estimated range of $5 million to $20 million. The project period is also up to 36 months.

For more information, read the initial NIA here, and look for a supplemental notice from the Department of Education by the end of the week.

Molly Osborne Urquhart

Molly Osborne is the vice president and director of operations for EducationNC.