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As of June 8, 2020, the last day of the extended deadline, all 50 states as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia had applied for and received their allocation of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund or GEER Fund, according to Education Dive.
The GEER Fund totaling nearly $3 billion make up one of four funding categories dedicated to education under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. GEER Funds can go to school districts (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations.
Although many states have started reopening slowly, schools are unlikely to fully reopen by the fall and may end up conducting hybrid or remote learning, which GEER Fund grants would likely be used to support.
What is the GEER Fund?
Designed to ensure that education continues for all students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, disbursement of the “emergency block grant” has been left to the discretion of state governors. The Department of Education also made sure that governors’ access to the funding was streamlined in the effort to get prompt assistance to schools.
60% of each state’s GEER Fund allocation was based on the state’s relative population of individuals aged 5 through 24, while 40% was based on each state’s relative number of children counted under section 1124(c) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (i.e., children counted for the purposes of making Title I, Part A formula grants to local educational agencies, or the Title I, Part A formula count).
Of the nearly $3 billion available, California has the highest allocation at approximately $355 million, while Vermont has the lowest allocation at approximately $4.5 million. Each state’s total allocation amount can be found on the website of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE).
Can the GEER Fund be Used for Remote Learning?
There’s no doubt that access to remote learning tools are an important feature of GEER Funds. In the cover letter to governors announcing the awards and detailing the process for applying, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated: “My Department will not micromanage how you spend these funds, but I encourage you…to focus these resources on ensuring that all students continue to learn most likely through some form of remote learning.”
The language of the GEER Fund announcement itself also contains support for remote learning tools, access, and professional development training: “An applicant must include information on the extent that a Governor intends to use GEER funds to support remote learning, which includes both distance education as defined in section 103(7) of the HEA and distance learning as defined in ESEA section 8101(14),) so that students can continue learning during school closures.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have both been outspoken in urging governors, states, and local school districts to devote funds from the CARES Act to remote learning.
Tips for Administrators and Educators
Eligibility criteria and application processes for GEER Funds vary by state, but the following tips can help you be better prepared:
Act Fast. The GEER Fund is available for now and state governors have approximately one year from the date they received the funds to disburse them. Unused funds will be returned to the Department of Education for reallocation.
- Do Your Research. While third-party sources may have information on the GEER Fund, their information may be out of date or incomplete. It’s important that you get answers to your GEER Fund questions directly from authorized sources by accessing the OESE’s GEER Fund FAQs and FAQs on Equitable Services and Maintenance of Effort, as well as by seeking guidance from your state governor’s office.
- Quantify Your Need. Getting an accurate count of students without connectivity or mobile learning devices will undoubtedly help with applying for subgrants given under the GEER Fund and others your school or students may be eligible for under the CARES Act.
- Assess the Impact of COVID-19. Although it applies to a different grant, the Coronavirus Burden Table used by the Department of Education for the Education Stabilization Fund-Rethink K12 Education Models Discretionary Grants gives some insights on how schools can demonstrate the impact of the COVID-19 on their populations.
- State Clearly How Funds Will be Used. A clear plan for how to use GEER Funds can help. When stating how funds will be used, think about including as much detail as possible, such as how many Chromebooks and hotspots your school will purchase. It is also a good idea to outline how you plan to provide evidence for fund usage should the governor’s office require that at a later date.
Despite the support for remote learning built into the language of the GEER Fund and expressed by both the Department of Education and the FCC, not every school in need is going to receive funding to cover all their students for the entire academic year. Preparing for whatever scenario state governors decide to use to disburse funds—whether competitive or non-competitive—is key, especially because support will likely go to institutions “most significantly impacted by coronavirus.”
We'd love to hear from administrators and educators! How has your experience of acquiring and using the GEER Fund for remote learning gone?