Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Washington's American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plans and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to the state. Washington's plan details how the state is using and plans to use ARP ESSER funds to 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 returned 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 students and educators as they recover from lost instructional time, including in ways outlined on the Roadmap.
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. Washington is receiving $1.8 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $618 million. Today’s approval mean a total of 48 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Washington's plan and thank Chair Murray for her continued partnership working on behalf of our school communities,” 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. The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to help keep schools open 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 proud of the work our schools are doing to support our students’ well-being and in-person learning recovery and acceleration,” said Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “As a state, every decision we’ve made has centered our students. Nearly 90% of our school employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, our students are learning in-person full-time, and our educators are working incredibly hard to support our students as we emerge through this pandemic. I am grateful for the investments made by the federal and our state governments, which have provided our schools with the support they critically need during this unprecedented time.”
“Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been laser-focused on getting Washington state students—and students across the country—back in the classroom safely as quickly as possible, with their friends, coaches, counselors and teachers, because I know how important that is for their learning. That’s why we worked so hard to pass the American Rescue Plan—to provide schools the resources they need to re-open safely, address learning loss, provide mental health resources, and provide masks, tests, and improved ventilation,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). “I’ve talked to parents, educators, and students across the state and I know what a difference being in the classroom makes. Having the Washington state plan approved is an important step to ensure our state can use these resources, but the disruptions in learning we’re still seeing are absolutely unacceptable. Getting our students back in the classroom safely is just step one—now we need to focus on keeping them there. So I’m going to be monitoring closely to make sure these resources are used carefully to help students recover from these incredibly tough years, and keep them safe and in the classroom."
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department, including Washington'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:
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) grants will provide schools with resources to adopt universal screening and provide individualized evidence-based instruction to increase student engagement, content mastery, credit attainment, and graduation rates, particularly for students most impacted by the pandemic. Additional investments of the State set-aside include programs to improve mathematics and literacy instruction, youth reengagement and outreach efforts, expanding access to Native education curriculum, and support for students in the foster care system.
- Investing in Expanded Afterschool Programs: OSPI will use a targeted grant award process to allocate ARP ESSER funds to existing afterschool 21st Century Community Learning Center programs, particularly to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic on particular student groups. Prior to funding, OSPI will review programs’ implementation of evidence-based afterschool programming, expansion of services to new sites, and communities not currently served.
- Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs: OSPI will fund the Social Emotional Learning Professional Learning Network and Mitigating Effects of Intergenerational Trauma initiative to focus on the specific needs of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children, youth, and families, and to strengthen understanding of social-emotional learning efforts. Additionally, OSPI will fund integrated content and evidence-based instructional strategies which will provide integrated instruction using social emotional learning, trauma-informed and culturally responsive pedagogical strategies integrated across content areas.
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:
- 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.
- Announced new mental health resources to provide information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students
- 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
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care 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. The Build Back Better legislation will offer universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and, make education beyond high school more affordable—including offering more trainings and apprenticeships, by increasing the maximum Pell Grant, expanding access to DREAMers. It will also make historic investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and minority-serving institutions.