May , 2021
The Honorable Miguel Cardona
Secretary of the United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20202
Dear Secretary Cardona:
As many jurisdictions, the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) has faced countless challenges resulting from the Coronavirus disease. Additionally, due to the specific conditions imposed to the PRDE, we weren’t able to utilize FY 2019-2020 funds until recently. We are thankful for your assistance with March 22, 2021 letter that was received, where the USDE granted PRDE with access to the mentioned funds.
Having experienced an irregular 2020-2021 academic year and knowing we will not be able to comply with all federal requirements, it is necessary to request waivers, pursuant to section 3511 of Division A of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), P.L. 116-136 (H.R. 748), 34 Stat. 281 (Mar. 27, 2020), of the requirement(s) enumerated below on behalf of the PRDE and its subgrantees. We understand that providing us with flexibility of the following requirements, will help PRDE at these times:
- Carryover limitation in section 1127(b) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) for Federal fiscal year (FY) 2019 Title I, Part A funds (i.e., the Title I, Part A funds that will become carryover funds on October 1, 2020): the requirement that limits an SEA’s ability to grant to its LEAs a waiver of the 15 percent Title I, Part A carryover limitation in section 1127(a) more than once every three years.
- Period of availability of funds in section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA): to extend the period of availability of FYs 2018 and 2019 funds for the following programs in which the PRDE participates under its approved consolidated State plan until September 30, 2022:
- Title I, Part A of the ESEA (Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs), including the portions of the SEA’s Title I, Part A award used to carry out section 1003 school improvement, section 1003A direct student services
- Title I, Part B of the ESEA (State Assessment Formula Grants)
- Title I, Part D, Subpart 1 of the ESEA (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At Risk)
- Title II, Part A of the ESEA (Supporting Effective Instruction)
- Title III, Part A of the ESEA (English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement)
- Title IV, Part A of the ESEA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants)
- Title IV, Part B of the ESEA (21st Century Community Learning Centers)
- McKinney- Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program
- Title I of Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
- Title II of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Additionally, we ask for a waiver of the following requirements in Title IV, Part A of the ESEA:
- Needs assessment requirements in section 4106(d) for the 2021-2022 school year.
- Content area spending requirements in section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E): the requirements to use a minimum percentage of Title IV, Part A funds for activities under sections 4107, 4108 and 4109 for FY 2021-2022 funds.
- Spending limitation in section 4109(b): the 15 percent limit on the use of funds under section 4109 to purchase technology infrastructure for FY 2021-2022 funds.
Moreover, we could advantage from a waiver of the definition of professional development in section 8101(42) of the ESEA for the 2021-2022 school year, to be able to provide other types of trainings, including distance offering.
PRDE is requesting these waivers because it is not possible to obligate funds on a timely manner due to extensive school closures in Puerto Rico, among other reasons. In addition, PRDE needs increased flexibility in the use of Title IV, Part A funds to support continuity of services due to these school closures.
The school closures also present unique needs with respect to professional development for educators to meet the immediate needs of children whose education has been severely disrupted by school closures. These closures are in response to extraordinary circumstances for which a national emergency has been duly declared by the President of the United States under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act and will protect the health and safety of students, staff, and our communities while we thrive to succeed.
In seeking these waivers, I assure that:
- The PRDE will use, and ensure that its subgrantees use, funds under the respective programs in accordance with the provisions of all applicable statutes, regulations, program plans, and applications not subject to these waivers.
- The PRDE will work to mitigate, and ensure that its subgrantees work to mitigate, any negative effects, if any, that may occur as a result of the requested waivers.
The PRDE provided the public and all people of interest in Puerto Rico with notice of, and the opportunity to comment on, this request by posting information regarding the waiver request and the process for commenting on the State website.
Thank you for your consideration.
Eliezer Ramos Parés