USED offers Waivers on Spending of IDEA Funds

The U.S. Education Department (USED) is providing states a one-year extension to spend their FFY 2018 IDEA Part B funds. In a June 8, 2020 letter to state education chiefs, Acting Ass’t Sec’y Mark Schultz advised states that they may request a waiver that will permit the state educational agency and its subgrantees (e.g. local educational agencies or school districts) to use Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2018 IDEA Part B grant award funds for an additional year beyond what is known as the Tydings period.

All states receive a federal grant under Part B of the IDEA, called a section 611 grant, to support special education and related services for children ages 3 through 21 as well as a section 619 grant, which are IDEA funds to support the education of children ages 3 through 5. (Click here for FY 2018 grants by state)

Section 421 (b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) allows state education agencies and local districts an additional 12 months (known at the Tydings Period) to obligate any funds that were not obligated at the end of the initial 15-month grant period. As a result of the Tydings Period, states have 27 months to obligate funding for each federal fiscal award. For the most part, local grant funds are spent down long before this 27 month timeline.

Under normal spending rules, FFY 2018 IDEA Part B grant funds must be spent by Sept. 30, 2020. The additional year lets districts take another 12 months to obligate those funds – until Sept. 30, 2021. All funds must be spent by Dec. 30, 2021. (In any given year, states and local districts are planning for, obligating, expending, and liquidating up to four years of IDEA grant awards.)

USED provided a template for states to use to request the waiver and promises a quick response.

UPDATE: 45 states/territories applied for and receive approval for the Part B Period of Availability waiver. Details available here.

This action, authorized by the CARES Act, is unlikely to provide much relief for school districts with regard to IDEA’s maintenance of effort requirements (MOE) since the larger problem in meeting MOE for this school year is spending local – or state and local – funds, as laid out in this Position Statement by the Council of Administrators of Special Education.

MORE: This document explains the life cycle of IDEA grant funds. (PDF)

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