State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler successfully pushed the U.S. Department of Education to agree to grant North Dakota’s schools more local control and flexibility in managing federal aid that benefits students from low-income homes.
Baesler asked the Education Department for rule waivers from the programs, which are known collectively as Federal Title programs. The nickname refers to sections of the primary federal education law, which is called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. North Dakota has 252 schools that receive Title I aid.
The waivers will allow districts flexibility in managing money that helps students from low-income homes, as well as provide services for children who are homeless, delinquent, neglected, or at risk; migrant children; and students who do not speak English as a first language. The funds help track students’ academic progress and provide professional development for teachers.
About $45 million in federal aid is affected. Baesler said schools already have the money in hand, and much of it has already been spent.
Under ordinary circumstances, schools would be required to return unspent aid at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The waivers allow districts to carry over unspent funds and use them during the 2020-21 school year. The amount of unspent funds would vary by school.
On Monday, a Department of Education official informed the Department of Public Instruction that Baesler’s waiver requests will be granted, and that the NDDPI and North Dakota schools may begin to implement them.
“Our schools in North Dakota need the ability to manage these funds more efficiently during these extraordinary times,” Baesler said. “These waivers will help us, and our schools, to adapt to these conditions and continue to provide great educational services to our students.”