On Wednesday, July 7, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of South Dakota's American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plans and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. South Dakota’s plan details how the state is using and plan to use ARP ESSER funds to re-engage students across the state 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. South Dakota is receiving more than $381 million total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $127 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Arkansas, Massachusetts, Utah, Texas, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.
“I am excited to announce approval of South Dakota’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.”
“South Dakota is pleased to be among the first states to have their plans approved. South Dakota schools also were among the first in the nation to reopen their doors at the start of the 2020-21 school year,” said Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson. “Our plan identifies three priorities for the next few years: supporting strong instruction and educational opportunities, addressing students’ mental health needs, and focusing on the educator workforce. As we move forward, we will continue to evaluate data and engage with stakeholders as we identify strategies to support engagement and learning for all students.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including South Dakota, 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:
- Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021 Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: South Dakota Department of Education (DOE) supported the return to in-person learning in fall 2020 by providing local leaders with the data, resources, and technical assistance they needed to make sound decisions based on the needs of their students, local conditions, and the most up to date science. As most schools have been open the entire previous school year, DOE expects this to continue in school year 2021-22.
- Hiring School Nurses, Counselors, and Paraprofessionals: In the 2020-21 school year, DOE supported district-led initiatives to add school nurses, counselors and special education paraprofessionals using federal ESSER funding
- Re-Engaging Students: South Dakota is exploring means to assist LEAs in identifying disengaged students through additional tools and programming to support these students’ academic progress and overall well-being. State level spending of ARP ESSER funds will focus on strategies designed to engage and reengage students that may have missed out on instruction and educational opportunities and provide strong instruction for academic attainment for all students based on their individual needs.
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 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.