Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Oklahoma's American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Oklahoma'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.
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. Oklahoma is receiving more than $1.4 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $498 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Ohio. Last week, the Department approved the plans for six states and the District of Columbia.
"I am excited to announce approval of Oklahoma’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."
"Oklahoma's recovery plan, called Ready Together Oklahoma, is dynamic and robust guidance that addresses the most pressing matters for students and families amid the pandemic," said Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction. "We are proud of our work toward recovery, and we are grateful to the USDE for their swift approval of our plan."
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Oklahoma, 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:
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: OSDE will partner with Oklahoma college and universities to invest ARP ESSER funds in a Math Tutoring Corps to help address middle and high school learning disruptions due to the pandemic. OSDE is also investing in science and math professional development opportunities for educators. Additionally, it will invest in paid student teaching and first-year teacher induction programs. >All interventions will have evaluative measures applied through internal processes, collaboration with education partners, or contractual arrangements with external evaluators.
- Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: OSDE intends to invest ARP ESSER funds to implement evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs and to expand afterschool programming through partnerships with the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs. These programs will target the most at-risk youth. They will provide supports for academic recovery, social and emotional support, and access to technology. OSDE will provide competitive grant opportunities for funding to begin or enhance summer school programs, giving priority points to those applicants that will serve the most underserved populations and those that had their learning most disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. These opportunities will supplement the 102 existing 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the state to provide afterschool programming.
- Staffing to Support Students' Needs: OSDE will use ARP ESSER funding to hire new school counselors, mental health professionals, and recreational therapists due to an identified shortage in the state. OSDE has awarded grants for 222 school counselors, 94 licensed mental health professionals, and 42 contracts for services. OSDE has launched a School Counselor Corps grant to allow districts to apply for funding to increase the number of school counselors, licensed mental health professionals, licensed recreational therapists and/or mental health contract services. Additional school counselors and school-based mental health professionals may also assist with student needs caused by the high incidence of childhood trauma in Oklahoma and the impact of the pandemic on students. Additionally, OSDE will employ five student support specialists to provide training, technical assistance, and coaching to all counselors hired under this initiative and any other counselors wishing to attend. Trainings will be provided to these new employees in order to best meet the academic, college and career, and social and emotional needs of students. OSDE will also launch new Social & Emotional Learning Competencies (PK-grade 12 and adult) in summer 2021. These competencies are based on the Collaborative for Academic, Social & Emotional Learning (CASEL) five evidence-based competencies: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness.
A total of 40 states 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 also is 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 ARP 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-Harris 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.