Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Maryland’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Maryland’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 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. Maryland is receiving $1.9 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $651 million. Additionally, the Department approved state plans from Nebraska and Virginia. Today’s approvals mean a total of 44 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Maryland’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 enter 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.”
“With the approval of Maryland’s American Rescue Plan, we will steadfastly continue our work to transform Maryland education as we focus on accelerating student achievement, supporting mental, social, and emotional health, and addressing disrupted education,” said Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury. “We are seizing this moment to ensure that every Maryland student has access to excellent educational opportunities and strong outcomes. We will not accept a return to normal, because normal was not good enough, especially for those who have been historically underserved.”
“Team Maryland recognized the urgent need for significant, additional resources to address learning loss for students during the pandemic and worked with the Biden-Harris Administration to provide more than $1.9 billion for Maryland’s public schools through the American Rescue plan,” said Sen. Ben Cardin. “Today’s approval of Maryland’s plan by the U.S. Department of Education means the state and local school districts soon will be better able to support students who have fallen behind, and make targeted investments and improvements in school facilities, enhancing educational programs.”
“Our children all must have equal opportunities to succeed in their education. Students and educators in Maryland and across the country have faced unprecedented challenges throughout this pandemic, including a widening learning gap,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen. “I was proud to help secure these funds within the American Rescue Plan to support our schools, and I am glad to see the Department of Education approve Maryland’s use of these funds in order to ensure that all K-12 students and educators get the support they need to keep students in the classroom and address learning loss. I will continue fighting to increase funding for our education system and to make sure every child in Maryland has access to a quality education.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on young learners across Maryland by exacerbating learning disparities and causing tens of thousands of students to fall behind in their education,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer. “The American Rescue Plan allocated critical funding for schools to help get students back on track by providing essential resources and tools to bridge divides in equity and help meet the needs of students, staff, and our hardworking teachers. I’m so pleased that Maryland’s plan for American Rescue Plan funding has been approved for the academic year ahead. I am hopeful that these resources will continue to ensure all of our students are set up for success.”
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, my colleagues and I have fought relentlessly for federal resources to keep Maryland communities, teachers and students safe,” said Rep. John Sarbanes. “The Department of Education’s approval of Maryland’s plan today will make available robust American Rescue Plan funding for safe, in-person learning and other long-term priorities such as providing students and teachers with reliable internet access and learning devices, and addressing students’ mental health and academic needs. I am pleased this approval will equip our schools with the tools for a successful academic year.”
“In supporting the American Rescue Act, Maryland’s Congressional delegation answered the pleas of our state and local education for more resources to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen classrooms for in-person learning,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger said. “Today’s approval of Maryland’s plan will help enable students and teachers to remain safely in schools and also address the difficult, long-term challenges of helping students make up for lost time in the classroom.”
“Every child deserves a quality education, no matter their zip code or circumstances. After unprecedented disruptions to in-classroom instruction, this funding through the American Rescue Plan provides a lifeline for Maryland’s schools to get students and educators safely back in the classroom, address learning loss and achievement gaps while supporting kids during this transition period,” said Rep. Anthony G. Brown. “Our schools are cornerstones of our communities. Together, with the Biden-Harris Administration, we’ll continue to provide them with the resources needed to give students and educators a strong foundation moving forward.”
“The pandemic highlighted many inequities in our school districts, especially when it came to broadband access and affordability,” said Rep. David Trone. “So, we had to step up. I’m grateful that we all came together, working side-by-side, to approve historic windfalls of education funding through the American Rescue Plan, including nearly $2 billion for Maryland alone. Today marks another win for America’s education system, and a brighter future for our students.”
“The nearly $2 billion in American Rescue Plan funding from the Department of Education for Maryland’s elementary and secondary schools will help close the learning gap exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and will thus help get all of our students back on track,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin. “I will continue to advocate for full investment in Maryland schools as we reopen safely for students, teachers and parents.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Maryland’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:
- Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) works closely with the Maryland Department of Health and other state agencies to promote vaccination opportunities for school staff and eligible students. In March 2021, Maryland local school systems reported that more than 97 percent of all eligible staff members (teachers, administrators, and support staff) who had requested a vaccine had been vaccinated.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: MSDE will focus on acceleration strategies that support students by providing more time in class, more dedicated attention in class, and exposure to grade-level learning. Most school systems are using a tiered approach to support all students, offering varying levels of support to students based on identified need. Students are identified for the type of support they will receive by school system using data. All funds reserved under this section will be allocated to districts based on the Title I formula. Districts will implement strategies including high-intensity structured tutoring, extended day/year programming, summer school programs, acceleration academies, formative assessments, and early childhood programs.
- Supporting Students Most Impacted: The MSDE Task Force on Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys has developed several evidence-based recommendations to address the inequities experienced by black boys in eight local education agencies (LEAs) across the state. Grant funding will be allocated to districts to implement the recommendations of the task force’s report, focusing on 1) social-emotional and behavioral supports; 2) recruitment and training of effective teachers and administrators; and 3) curricula and instruction. Examples of evidence-based recommendations include de-escalation and intervention training for all school staff, providing financial incentives to recruit and retain diverse teachers and administrators, and coordinating structured mentoring programs for black boys in grades K-12 with adult males and peers.
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 Administration 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.
- 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 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.