Feds face backlash for tying schools' coronavirus relief to compliance with CDC guidelines

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The Department of Education is facing backlash for requiring school systems to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance in order to obtain coronavirus relief funding.

No Left Turn in Education (NLTE), a parents’ group opposing critical race theory and other controversial ideas, noticed the criteria in an application Virginia submitted for relief. 

Both that application and the department’s website specify that school systems should use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds in order to comply with CDC guidance. 

“No Left Turn in Education is concerned by the CDCs constantly changing guidance over masks in K-12,” said Yael Levin, who leads the group’s Virginia chapter. 

She said it was troubling that the federal government is “bypassing state and local education agencies by offering taxpayer money to guarantee compliance with universal masking through 2023 while allowing parents to believe that their voices would be heard and that they will be able to maintain parental authority when it comes the medical decisions for their children.”

It’s unclear how exactly school systems are expected to comply with CDC guidance, but the Education Department requires them to state their plans for doing so. Virginia’s Education Departrment did not respond to Levin’s concerns, but confirmed that the language in its application came from a federal template.

Its application reads: “Describe how the SEA [State Educational Agency] will support its LEAs [Local Educational Agency] in safely returning to in-person instruction and sustaining the safe operation of schools. This description must include: How the SEA will support its LEAs implementing, to the greatest extent practicable, prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators and other staff.”

The Education Department also pointed Fox News to its Frequently Asked Questions page, which read: “How may an LEA use ESSER funds? Developing strategies and implementing public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the CDC for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators and other staff.”

It later adds: “Under the interim final requirements, an LEA plan for safe return to in[1]person instruction and continuity of services must describe how the LEA will maintain the health and safety of students, educators and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policies, on each of the prevention and mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC.”

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