Virginia schools will now be able to keep millions in federal education money they would have had to give back with schools closed for the rest of the academic year. The change was granted under flexibility given to the state by the U.S. Department of Education.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced Tuesday that the federal Education Department has given preliminary approval to Virginia’s request for waivers from provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the General Education Provisions Act, which govern how and when federal education dollars must be spent by states and local school systems.

“Without this flexibility, Virginia school divisions would have had to return millions of dollars in federal funding — most of it supporting programs serving vulnerable students — that they were unable to spend by September 30 due to the closure of schools to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Lane said. “These waivers will also allow divisions and the Virginia Department of Education to shift federal resources to supporting the technology and professional development for teachers necessary to expand distance-learning opportunities for all students.”

Lane submitted the waiver application Monday and it was approved two hours later, according to a Virginia Department of Education news release.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act - the legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month to help with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic - authorized the flexibility.

Specifically, the waivers remove the cap on how much federal money school districts can use to buy technology and ease limits on how much unspent federal money that can be carried over from one year to the next.

“I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Education for its swift approval of our waiver request,” Lane said in a statement. “This additional flexibility will help our schools meet the needs of students during the pandemic and after.”

The federal Education Department must still grant Virginia its formal approval, but the agency has authorized Virginia to implement the waivers.

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