Maine DOE announces public comment period for new waiver requests

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The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is currently seeking comments related to a number of waivers it intends to submit to the federal Department of Education.

The state is seeking waivers for funding requirements outlined in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds, as well as for carryover limitations that apply to funds allocated to local school districts. 

If granted, the waivers the state is seeking would apply to approximately 10 programs, including those that affect the improvement of basic programs, such as school improvements, operated by local education agencies (LEAs), state assessment formula grants, the education of migratory children, prevention and intervention programs for children who are neglected or delinquent, as well as those that support effective instruction, English language acquisition, student support and enrichment grants, community income centers, education for homeless children, and rural and low-income social programs.

The department is also seeking a carryover limitation waiver for a requirement that limits the agency’s ability to make grants to LEAs. Under the ESEA, LEAs that receive more than $50,000 per year cannot carryover more than 15 percent of the funds allocated to them for an additional fiscal year. State agencies can waive this limitation once every three years if they determine a request is reasonable and if supplemental funding is available. 

The Maine DOE is seeking to waive this limitation. 

“The carryover limitation waiver seeks to waive the requirement that limits the Maine DOE’s ability to grant to its local educational agencies (LEAs) a waiver of the 15 percent Title I, Part A carryover limitation of more than once every three years,” the agency wrote in a notice seeking public comment.

Under the ESEA, states are required to fulfill certain requirements, including those the state is seeking waivers from, in order to qualify for federal funding.

The ESEA, which became law in 1965, was reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in 2015 by former president Barack Obama. The ESEA was previously reauthorized by former president George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

Beginning in 2011, the federal DOE has invited state education agencies to apply for waivers for certain requirements in the ESEA, allowing flexibility towards certain requirements. 

Maine first received approval for ESEA flexibility in August 2013. In 2021, the state received two waivers, one to administer a new field test for general science assessment in grades 5, 8, and 11 and a second waiver related to reporting requirements measuring the state’s progress towards long-term and interim goals. Both waivers lasted for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year.

The 2020-2021 school year marked the second consecutive year Maine received a waiver from accountability requirements. The federal DOE began offering this waiver to states in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The public comment period for the waivers Maine DOE is currently seeking, which is required by federal law, runs from June 7 to June 21.

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