Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of New Jersey’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. New Jersey’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 gear up for the 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. New Jersey is receiving $2.7 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $923 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, North Dakota, and South Carolina. Today’s approvals mean a total of 28 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 New Jersey’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 move into the summer and 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.”
“New Jersey’s ARP ESSER state plan represents a significant step in our state’s road forward to empowering students, educators, and schools to safely return to in-person learning while addressing the academic, social, emotional, and mental health impacts of COVID-19, a priority for Gov. Murphy and the State Department of Education,” said Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan. “We are grateful to education stakeholders, including members of the State Board of Education, whose consultation helped ensure that our state’s use of ARP ESSER funds meets the needs of all students and educators; to President Biden, Secretary Cardona, and to the U.S. Congress for authorizing and implementing this important legislation; and most importantly to New Jersey’s education community, which has demonstrated exceptional resilience and grace in the face of unprecedented challenges. The New Jersey Department of Education looks forward to continuing to support our local educational agencies’ use of federal funds to provide safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environments for all New Jersey students.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted in-person learning in unprecedented ways and exacerbated learning loss for students across the country, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “With this in mind, the Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats in Congress responded to this growing challenge by making critical and urgent investments in our children’s education as part of the American Rescue Plan. That is why I am thrilled to see the Department of Education approve New Jersey’s plan, which will ensure our children and educators can safely return to in-person learning this fall and address learning loss and the social and emotional toll the last year and a half has taken on students, educators, and our communities.”
“Over the past year, we’ve seen the immense burden placed upon our nation’s students and teachers as they adjusted to a new reality brought on by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Cory Booker. “In response to this, I was proud to join Democrats in supporting the Biden-Harris American Rescue Plan and applaud the approval of New Jersey’s ARP ESSER plan that will provide critical aid to help our schools reopen safely, support our students and educators, and address the significant learning loss that occurred during the unprecedented public health crisis.”
“The American Rescue Plan funds are helping to get our kids get back to school because we know the best place for children to learn is in the classroom,” said Rep. Donald Norcross. This funding will provide critical resources that benefit students’ physical and mental health. I applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for its focus on reopening our schools safely and with the resources needed to help our children, educators and community build back better.”
“I’m happy to see the Department of Education approve New Jersey’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill. “The pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on students and teachers, and the approval of this plan will enable New Jersey to receive critical additional ARP funds. These resources are an important step to ensuring New Jersey’s schools can safely reopen and operate as well as address the social, educational, and emotional needs of our students, educators, and communities.”
“I am so glad to see the Department of Education approve New Jersey’s plan to support our K-12 schools and students after an unprecedented year,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. “These resources are critical to helping our students and educators safely transition back to the classroom this fall. It is so important to recognize all the hard work our communities have done and address the learning loss and the emotional toll that this past year has taken.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including New Jersey, 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:
- Supporting Students Most Impacted by the Pandemic: The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) will provide guidance and technical assistance on the use of ARP ESSER funds that highlight how allowable activities may be used to advance educational equity. As part of their ARP ESSER Use of Funds application, LEAs will be required to provide information on their plans to use ARP ESSER funds to implement an equitable and inclusive return to in-person instruction.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: New Jersey plans to establish an “Acceleration Coach and Educator Support” formula grant for districts. New Jersey will use a weighted enrollment allocation formula that assigns additional weight to lower grade bands, Limited English Proficient Students, and students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Districts will use the grant funds to implement professional learning for staff to help better understand the needs of their students with regard to learning acceleration and interventions. Funds also will be used in developing positive school climate, implementing social and emotional learning supports, supporting culturally responsive teaching practices, increasing digital and data literacy, engaging educators and parents in the community to personalize students’ learning, identifying disproportionate impacts of COVID-19, and other services to support educators meeting the needs of their students.
- Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: The state plans to develop a Summer Enrichment Activities formula grant to districts to support summer learning academies and tutoring, professional learning for educators, and education and training programs for parents and caregivers. Districts must target funds to content areas most impacted by COVID-19, such as STEM, younger grade levels, or performing arts. Additionally, the state plans to establish a Comprehensive Beyond the School Day Activities formula grant which will support implementation of research-based programs such as tutoring and broader learning supports to families and educators.
A total of 46 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 Department is also in contact with states that have not yet submitted plans, the vast majority of which are due to state board of education or legislative review requirements.
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:
- 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 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.