A long-awaited U.S. Department of Education final rule for the American Rescue Plan’s K-12 maintenance of equity provision, published earlier this month, clarifies requirements states need to follow to ensure districts are not making disproportionate budget and staffing cuts at high-poverty schools.

The rule extends until July 8 the deadline for when states must publish information on school districts that are exempt from the requirement. It also addresses how state education agencies can report on district-level compliance.

Some state and local school systems have said the rule’s reporting requirements, which only apply to the school year just ending and next school year, are burdensome, but many agree with the push to increase equitable practices. Some advocates also hope the rule initiates efforts for longer-lasting fiscal approaches that eliminate disproportionate practices for per-pupil funding and full-time staffing.

Congress included the maintenance of equity provision in the ARP legislation in March 2021, and since then, the Education Department has issued various guidance and technical assistance.

The department received 12 comments during a public comment period for the proposed rule. One concern voiced by commenters, according to the Education Department, is a too-tight deadline for states to publish district-level maintenance of effort data on the state website regarding which districts are exempt from the requirement. That concern left to the shift in the deadline from March 31 to July 8, 30 days from the rule’s publication in the Federal Register.

Commenters also raised concerns about the timeline for publishing data for districts that must comply with the rule because the deadline, in some cases, doesn’t align with existing fiscal reporting practices.

The Dec. 31, 2022, deadline for fiscal year 2022 will not change, and the department acknowledges the reporting for maintenance of equity “may not align with per-pupil expenditure data published for Title I, Part A report cards.” It adds that the equity reporting “simply allows, but does not require, LEAs [local education agencies] to use such expenditure data for the purpose of demonstrating compliance with the maintenance of equity requirements.”

The department also explained that districts can rely on allocations or budget data to make a determination of whether they maintained equity. Because states collect and finalize per-pupil expenditure data on different timelines, states can request a “reasonable extension” beyond Dec. 31, 2022.