Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Pennsylvania’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Pennsylvania’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. Pennsylvania is receiving $5 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $1.6 billion. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, and New York. Today’s approvals mean a total of 22 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Pennsylvania’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.”
“I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Education for their support and approval of Pennsylvania’s ARP ESSER State Plan,” said Noe Ortega, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). “The plan, which reflects feedback from stakeholders across the state, recognizes the challenges school communities continue to face as they plan and prepare for the future. ARP ESSER funds invest in our schools now and will enable them to further develop and implement lasting critical academic, social, and emotional resources, programs, and supports. The Pennsylvania Department of Education looks forward to continuing to collaborate with and provide assistance to schools as they navigate, overcome the impacts of, and emerge stronger from the pandemic.”
“The pandemic created great disruptions in our education system, leaving schools with the significant task of keeping their communities safe, while also meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of their students. Recognizing the substantial challenges that remain ahead and the critical importance of bringing students back into the classroom, the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress included bold investments for K-12 schools in the American Rescue Plan,” said Sen. Bob Casey. “I am pleased to see that the Department of Education has approved Pennsylvania’s plan. The school year is quickly approaching, and these resources will help ensure that our children can safely return to school in the fall and receive the support they need to succeed after a challenging year.”
“Students, educators, and our communities urgently need the funding from the American Rescue Plan in order to address learning loss and difficulties created by the pandemic,” said Rep. Susan Wild. “I’m glad to see the Department of Education approve Pennsylvania’s plan to use this funding so we can get kids back on track as quickly and safely as possible.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Pennsylvania, 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 and Other Impacts of Lost Instructional Time: The Pennsylvania state budget allocated the ARP ESSER reserve for evidence-based interventions to address the academic and other impacts of lost instructional time as subgrants. PDE will provide a list of vetted evidence-based interventions through its Evidence Resource Center. PDE is emphasizing the use of ARP ESSER funds for social, emotional, and mental health supports; professional development and technical assistance to educators, school support staff, school leaders, and school health professionals; and reading support and improvement for students. Subrecipients will be required to use at least 30 percent of the required state set-side for addressing the academic impact of lost instructional time to support students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. Using ARP ESSER funding, PDE has developed guidance and planning tools to support subrecipients in evaluating and addressing the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on vulnerable students and communities.
- Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: PDE will allocate summer enrichment and comprehensive afterschool formula grants to school districts, available through the ARP ESSER funding period. Interventions will include activities such as learning academies, 1:1 tutoring, socialization, and development of social-emotional skills and growth mindsets. School districts will be required to target funds to student groups disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
A total of 44 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 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 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.