Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of West Virginia's American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. West Virginia'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. West Virginia is receiving more than $761 million total in ARP ESSER funds, and today's approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $254 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Oregon, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Ohio. Last week, the Department approved the plans for six states and the District of Columbia.
"I am excited to announce approval of West Virginia'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."
"West Virginia's students will benefit greatly from the ARP ESSER funds," said State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch. "Specifically, we are focused on making sure that students and staff have the supports they need to 1) recover from the social and emotional distress caused or heightened by the pandemic and 2) regain learning momentum that was negatively impacted by disruptions to in-person learning."
"After the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented changes, West Virginia students deserve to return to safe, supportive schools in the fall," said Sen. Joe Manchin. "The American Rescue Plan provides West Virginia schools with more than $760 million to safely open our schools and help our students catch up after the last year. I am pleased the Department of Education has approved West Virginia's plan for these funds and look forward to seeing the positive impacts for our students."
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including West Virginia, 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:
- Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: In preparation of the 2020-2021 school year, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) developed a Roadmap-to-Recovery that outlines the rules under which schools operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Roadmap document has been updated regularly and is available for public comment now. West Virginia began a campaign encouraging high school students to get vaccinated in April 2021, which included hosting student vaccination clinics and engaging students and families on social media and will continue into the fall of 2021.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: Districts in West Virginia will implement evidence-based interventions to address the impact of lost instructional time on students, including meeting the needs of students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. WVDE also will support its districts by expanding state Technical Assistance Centers (TACs), which will support these interventions through professional development programs. WVDE will bolster three existing TACs by establishing two additional TACs using ARP ESSER funds, which will focus on grades 6-12 STEM and student support and wellbeing.
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.