Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Colorado’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Colorado’s plan details how the state is using and plans to use ARP ESSER funds to sustain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As students and states return to school, the Department released the Return To School Roadmap, which provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning. ARP funds can be used to support the roadmap’s efforts.
Earlier this year, the Department distributed two-thirds of the ARP ESSER funds, totaling $81 billion, to 50 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining third of the funding to states will be made available once state plans are approved. Colorado is receiving $1.1 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $389 million. Additionally, the Department approved California’s state plan. Today’s approvals mean a total of 46 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Colorado’s plan,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities. The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to help keep schools open for full-time, in-person learning; meet students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs; and address disparities in access to educational opportunity that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The state plans that have been submitted to the Department lay the groundwork for the ways in which an unprecedented infusion of federal resources will be used to address the urgent needs of America’s children and build back better.”
“The ESSER funding is truly a once in a generation investment in the education of Colorado’s students,” said Colorado Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes. “Our goal is to leverage this investment to help our districts and schools meet not only their current needs, but also anticipate and innovate to address future educational needs so we can emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.”
“I’m glad we were able to secure critical resources to support students, teachers, and school leaders in the American Rescue Plan as they have faced challenge after challenge during the COVID-19 crisis,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. “Now with Colorado’s education plan approved, our state will be able to use almost $390 million to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for our kids and address the toll the last year took on students, educators, and our communities.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge our state’s students,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper. “This American Rescue Plan funding provides critical support for schools to tackle learning loss and improve mental health to help our students get back on track.”
“The American Rescue Plan continues to deliver significant aid to our communities, including for our schools, educators and students,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter. “I’m glad to see the Department of Education approve Colorado’s plan to help our schools continue safe, in-person learning and provide additional support for students and schools most affected by the pandemic.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Colorado’s, show how states are using federal pandemic resources to support safe, in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students—with a focus on the students most impacted by the pandemic. For example:
- Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021 and Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: The majority of Colorado schools are offering fully in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year. To ensure that they are able to do so safely, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is in close collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to provide information to educators and parents about vaccines for students ages 5-17. Districts have access to communications tools to support COVID-19 vaccine messaging, including social media graphics, sample messages to parents, and an online vaccine-finder.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: CDE will use ARP ESSER funds to support high-impact tutoring, increased access to high-quality curricular and instructional materials, professional learning modules, educator workforce recruitment and retention efforts, school improvement grants, supplemental funding to support Native American students and students with disabilities, and career and technical education programs.
- Engaging Rural Students through Career-Connected Learning: To strengthen student engagement in rural communities, CDE will use ARP ESSER funds to foster collaborations among rural districts to build career-connected learning opportunities. These coalitions will allow districts to establish partnerships that address the career-connected learning needs of their communities by leveraging the work occurring in neighboring districts.
The distribution of ARP ESSER funds is part of the Department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to re-engage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and build our education system back better than before. In addition to providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools and meet the needs of all students, the Biden-Harris dministration also has:
- Held the Return To School Road Trip, a bus tour that visited schools across five states in five days to celebrate the safe return to school.
- Announced new mental health resources to provide information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students.
- Launched the Return To School Roadmap to provide key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outline how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning.
- Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook.
- Hosted a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
- Announced a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have been financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as universal indoor masking.
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff, and childcare workers.
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for preK-12 educators, staff, and students.
- Launched a series of equity summits focused on addressing inequities that existed before but were made worse by the pandemic.
- Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved communities.
- Developed a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse elevating hundreds of best practices to support schools’ efforts to reopen safely and address the impacts of COVID-19 on students, educators, and communities.
In addition to the actions the Biden Administration has taken to reopen schools, the President has proposed critical investments through his Build Back Better Agenda. The Build Back Better agenda will offer universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, make education beyond high school more affordable—including offering more trainings and apprenticeships, increasing the maximum Pell Grants, expanding access to DREAMers, and making historic investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and minority-serving institutions, among other provisions.