Pioneer Institute calls on the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to quickly establish comprehensive but concise guidelines for federal law around school closures. Because of the COVID-19 virus, schools have been closing rapidly around the nation, and they are trying to transition to alternative, largely online, learning programs. But schools nationwide have delayed or even foregone alternative learning programs, citing concerns about federal law — particularly as it relates to providing equitable educational opportunities for students with disabilities.
Multiple federal laws are relevant to school closures, and USED’s COVID-19 related communication has been a flow of issue-specific guidance, requiring state personnel to work through a complex and evolving set of federal statements. Even granting the primacy of state and local governments in providing education to young people, fragmented guidance from the federal government is unhelpful and unnecessary. State education personnel should have a single go-to resource on how federal law impacts their efforts. Pioneer calls on the federal government to quickly release a single report identifying which federal laws – and which aspects of those laws – are relevant to the topic of school closure and providing concrete guidance on how schools can comply in the coming weeks.