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A Look at Federal Education Funding – ESSA, IDEA, & Perkins V

With billions available in federal school funding each year, see what’s funded through the ESSA, IDEA, and Perkins V grants. Read on for more.
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Are you familiar with the saying “the children are our future,” or have you ever stopped to ask how education funds are being used to support students’ growth and enrichment? That curiosity led us to explore what these various educational funding sources entail and look at how governments, schools, and—ultimately—students are benefiting from Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) grants.

In researching funding for elementary and secondary education, we’ve observed that school districts rely primarily on state and local resources, with a small share of total revenues allotted to them by the federal government. For fiscal year 2023, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) received $269.7 billion in budgetary resources, which is 2.1% of the U.S federal budget.

These federal resources are available to states via formula grants and made available to school districts, state educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), and other educational institutions such as public charter schools. The formula grants do not require awardees to compete for funding but do require them to apply and meet requirements specified by the funding agency.

It is important to note that each state has its own way of determining eligibility and distributing the funds. In addition, these programs have federal requirements that include monitoring and reporting requirements. The cost principles of 2 CFR 200 are the basic guidelines describing permissible ways federal funds should be spent. 

There also are compliance requirements subject to audit for ED programs, which are outlined in the Office of Management and Budget A-133 Compliance Supplement published annually. Compliance requirements that apply to all three programs are known as “cross cutting” and include areas such as Activities Allowed or Unallowed, Matching Level of Effort, Earmarking, and Subrecipient Monitoring. It should be noted these programs also have requirement areas that are unique to them. For example, Special Tests and Provisions are applicable to ESSA, Procurement Suspension & Debarment are applicable to IDEA, and Cash Management is applicable to Perkins V.

Congress periodically renews the ESSA, IDEA, and Perkins V acts to provide continual funding for each program throughout the United States. Let us take a closer look at these programs and how the funds can be used:

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

  • ESSA is a law that replaced and updated the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.
  • $18 billion was allocated in ESSA funding for 2023.
  • ESSA is inclusive of nine titles that include: TITLE I: Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Education Agencies; TITLE II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, or Other School Leaders; TITLE III: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students; TITLE IV: 21st Century Schools; TITLE V: State Innovation and Local Flexibility; TITLE VI: Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education; TITLE VII: Impact Aid; TITLE VIII: General Provisions; and TITLE IX: Education for the Homeless and Other Laws.
  • ESSA requires every state to measure performance in reading, math, and science.
  • ESSA requires every state to develop an easily understandable “state report card” tool that is accessible online and provides parents information on test performance in reading, math, and science.
  • ESSA’s purpose is to provide all children with a significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education and to close educational achievement gaps.
  • The institutions that may use these grants include LEAs and SEAs.
  • Examples of how ESSA funds can be used:
    • Instructional coaches to provide high-quality, school-based professional development
    • Improve access to foreign language instruction, arts, and music education
    • Recruitment and retention of teachers, particularly in high-need subjects
    • New teacher, principal, or other school leader induction mentoring programs
    • Devices and software for students to access digital learning materials and collaborate with peers, and related training for educators
    • Counseling, school-based mental health programs, and mentoring services to improve students’ nonacademic skills
    • Re-entry programs and transition services for justice-involved youth
    • Bullying prevention
    • Drug and violence prevention
    • Build technological capacity and infrastructure
    • System for auditing the quality of evaluation and support systems
  • Examples of unallowable uses of grant funds include, but are not limited to: 
    • Construction
    • Advertising or public relations
    • Awards and award ceremonies
    • Fundraising
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Non-educational games, devices, and field trips
    • Direct reimbursement to private, non-public schools1

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

  • IDEA is a law whose purpose is to make available a free, appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensure special education and related services to those children.
  • IDEA provides funding for the following four parts: Part B §611 (grants to states), Part B §619 (preschool grants), Part C (infants and toddlers with disabilities), and Part D (national activities to improve the education of children with disabilities).
  • Part B §611 funds support the education of children and youth with disabilities ages 3 through 21.
  • Part B §619 provides grants to states to support special education and related services for children with disabilities ages 3 through 5.
  • Part C provides grants to states to support statewide systems for early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families from birth through age 2.
  • Part D focuses on personnel development, personnel preparation, technical assistance and parent training, and parent training information centers.
  • $15 billion was allocated in special education funding for 2023.
  • The institutions that may use these grants include LEAs and SEAs.
  • IDEA seeks to ensure educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting system improvement activities and technology development.
  • Examples of how IDEA funds can be used:
    • Salaries of special education teachers and costs associated with related services personnel, such as paraprofessionals, speech therapists, physical therapists, and psychologists
    • Individualized Education Program (IEP) coordinators
    • Foreign language and sign language interpreters for IEP meetings
    • Improving the use of technology in the classroom
    • Contracted special education or related services
    • Maintenance of special education equipment (assistive technology devices; copying machines, printers, elevators, etc.)
    • Professional development (costs associated with registration fees, travel, conference expenses, and providers)
  • Examples of unallowable uses of grant funds include, but are not limited to:
    • Costs associated with computer or IT network
    • Social activities
    • Salaries and benefits of superintendent or district administrator
    • Legal fees or related costs
    • 504 services or software application (costs associated with providing services under a 504 plan or software management systems)
    • Gift cards2

Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V)

  • Perkins V funding provides LEAs resources for the improvement of secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs.
  • $1.4 billion was allocated in career and technical education (CTE) funding for 2023.
  • Each state must submit to ED’s Office of Career and Technical Education a plan that outlines how each state’s education department will administer and implement the grant funds. This includes state eligibility requirements and performance benchmarks schools must meet to continue receiving grant funds.
  • Eligible recipients are to use the funds to develop, coordinate, implement, or improve CTE programs to address the needs identified in the comprehensive local needs assessment.
  • The institutions that use these grants can include public schools that provide CTE, nonprofit private schools with a CTE program, correctional institutions offering CTE to incarcerated persons, and postsecondary institutions that provide CTE training and credentials.
  • Funds are provided to invest in workforce development and build the capacity of the existing workforce development system through CTE programs that help introduce students to careers as early as middle school.
  • Examples of how Perkins V funds can be used include:
    • CTE curriculum
    • Certification exams and assessments
    • Equipment used for CTE instruction
    • Teacher salaries and compensation
    • Professional development, including meetings and conferences
    • Instructional materials
    • Expenses of renting and leasing buildings and equipment
    • Contracted services (directly tied to CTE program)
    • Technical skill assessments (industry-recognized certification exams/assessments)
  • Examples of unallowable uses of grant funds include, but are not limited to:
    • Equipment and supplies for building maintenance
    • Professional membership dues for individuals
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Fundraising
    • Maintenance contracts or agreements
    • Remedial courses
    • Student expenses/direct assistance to students (tuition, fees, insurance, and other expenses)3

In summary, each state receives allocations of these program funds. The state then makes subawards available through an application process to LEAs and other educational institutions to use for eligible activities. Each grant program has a different mission and serves a different purpose. With the award of these funds comes state and federal regulations, including Uniform Guidance requirements that must be adhered to.

If your organization has received this funding and would like to discuss the requirements regarding the use of these funds, our Grants Management practice at Forvis Mazars has extensive experience with grants and helping clients navigate the grant life cycle. If you have questions or need assistance, please reach out to a professional on our National Grants Management team or submit the Contact Us form below.

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