Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Maine’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Maine’s plan details how the state is using and plans to use ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen and 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 schools and states begin the new school year, 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. Maine is receiving more than $411 million total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $137 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Idaho, Nevada, and North Carolina. Today’s approvals mean a total of 37 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June. The Department has approved plans supporting more than 50 percent of students nationwide.
“I am excited to announce approval of Maine’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, particularly as we look ahead to the upcoming academic year. The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to quickly and safely reopen schools 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 team at Maine Department of Education is thrilled that our plan has received approval from the U.S. Department of Education and that we can now begin approving school administrative unit plans for use of the ARP funds,” said Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “These funds will support state-level efforts to propel our education system forward with a whole child focus, and will assist schools with innovative programming to address the academic and social-emotional needs of students while ensuring that they are learning in an environment that is safe and healthy.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Maine, 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:
- Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: Maine’s COVID-19 Response vaccination website provides hundreds of vaccination sites through health-care centers, pharmacies, and mobile vaccination units. Several Maine School Administrative Units (SAUs) also served as vaccination sites in the spring of 2021, and this fall many are working with local providers to host COVID-19 vaccine clinics for age eligible students and staff. Maine Department of Education (MDOE) is providing additional support for clinics to 12 SAUs. At no cost to them, each SAU or school can opt into the voluntary Pooled PCR Testing Program. To date, 360 schools have opted into the program.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: MDOE’s Extended Learning Program will develop opportunities for students across the state to engage with local industry employers. The program will allow students to gain knowledge and skills through learning and credit recovery in community-based and work-based organizations through the academic year. The Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education Learning Module Library provides free access to asynchronous, interdisciplinary, project-based learning modules aligned to the Maine Learning Results for PreK-12. Additionally, Learning Management System subgrants are available to SAUs to plan, execute, and assess specific learning processes and provide personalized approaches to education.
- Staffing to Support Students’ Needs: MDOE partnered with the Maine Community College System to launch the Learning Facilitators Program, a fast-track training program for paraprofessional level educators to expand, strengthen and support the educator workforce and enables program participants to earn educational certifications at no cost. Over 100 educators completed coursework and secured placements. MDOE will continue this program in the 2021-22 school year and is exploring an expansion of this program with ARP funds.
A total of 49 states, and the District of Columbia, have submitted their ARP ESSER state plans to the Department. The Department is reviewing the plans expeditiously and is in contact with states to ensure their plans meet all necessary requirements in order to access the remaining funds, as outlined in the ARP.
The distribution of ARP ESSER funds is part of the Department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to reengage 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 Administration also has:
- 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
- Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care workers. As of the end of May an estimated 84% of teachers and school staff were fully vaccinated.
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for pre-K-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 that will enable schools to rebuild stronger than they were before the pandemic, such as investing billions to build a diverse educator workforce, expand access to pre-K to all families, and invest in school infrastructure, among other provisions.