Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) posted 28 plans submitted by State Education Agencies (SEAs) describing how states plan to use American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds to support schools, students and educators. The ARP ESSER Fund provides nearly $122 billion to states to support the nation’s schools in safely reopening and sustaining safe in-person operations while meeting the social, emotional, mental health and academic needs of students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The release of the submitted plans comes shortly after new data published by the Institute of Education Sciences found that, in April, 59% of K-8 schools were offering in-person instruction full time, up from 46% since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration.
“We’re thrilled to see that states are directing the unprecedented resources from the American Rescue Plan toward addressing student needs and quickly and safely reopening our schools, so we can give every student the opportunity to learn full-time, in-person,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “These state plans make clear that the American Rescue Plan is providing much-needed support to states and districts as they work to not only bring students back to in-person learning, but also to address inequities made worse by the pandemic and make sure every student has the social, emotional, and mental health support they need to create a strong foundation for academic success.”
In April, states received access to two-thirds of their ARP ESSER allocation—a total of $81 billion. The remaining $41 billion will become available following the Department’s approval of each state’s plan. Every plan will be reviewed by the Department to determine whether it addresses published requirements, including seeking input from key stakeholder groups and the public in the development of the plan, and addressing the needs of students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including students in underserved communities. The Department will work with each state to revise its plan, as necessary, to meet all requirements so that the Department can expeditiously release the remaining funds. While these reviews are ongoing, the Department’s decision to post submitted plans online will make it possible for the public—including families, educators, and community-based organizations—to learn more about how states are planning to use ARP ESSER funds. The Department also will post all approved state plans.
The 28 plans include examples of how ARP ESSER funds will provide critical support to schools and communities for safe school reopening and operating efforts, and to meet the needs of students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including by addressing underlying inequities in access and opportunity for underserved students. Highlights from the plans include:
Accelerating and sustaining the safe return to in-person instruction: It is the Department’s expectation that all states and schools will provide every student the opportunity to return to in-person instruction full-time this fall. For example, New Jersey will provide state-level support for school nurses and other school health staff in understanding and implementing health and safety strategies for the return to in-person instruction. Tennessee released a template for school districts to develop health and safety plans as they work to bring more students back to in-person instruction and developed a data dashboard on school operating status that it plans to continue to share publicly in the fall.
Implementing COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies, including expanding access to vaccinations for school staff and students: All plans described how states are supporting their districts in prioritizing the safety of their students, educators, and staff, including by implementing prevention policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nine states detailed plans to prioritize vaccinations for educators and students. For example, Ohio is encouraging schools to offer eligible students the opportunity to get vaccinated during their extended or summer learning programming and into the fall. In addition, Arkansas is encouraging school districts to hold on-site vaccination clinics for students and to provide excused absences for students who miss class because they are getting vaccinated. ARP ESSER funds may be used by districts in these efforts.
Offering summer learning and enrichment programs: States are required to describe programs to expand summer learning and enrichment opportunities for students, and many of the plans specifically indicate that they will focus summer learning opportunities on students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. For example, New Mexico is setting up a $6 million joint program with local municipalities to provide summer internships for middle and high school students, using research on best practices for work-based learning. Massachusetts will offer summer school matching grants for school districts to offer four- to six-week, in-person summer programs that include mental health services and additional supports for students with disabilities and multilingual learners. Kansas will reserve a portion of funds for an initiative that will offset the cost of admission for students to visit museums, zoos, historical sites, state parks, and the Kansas state fair.
Providing social, emotional, and mental health support to students: All states described plans to expand social, emotional, and mental health supports for students. These critical supports will ensure more students—particularly those in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic—have access to counselors and mental health services to address the traumas students have faced over the last year and create a strong foundation for academic success. For example, Oklahoma is using approximately $35 million for districts to hire new school counselors, licensed mental health professionals and licensed recreational therapists to lower the student-to-counselor ratio. The District of Columbia, in partnership with its Department of Behavioral Health, is further expanding its Comprehensive School-Based Behavioral Health System to provide more students with access to clinical services in public schools.
Addressing the academic impact of lost instructional time: An important element of the ARP ESSER state plans is the description of evidence-based interventions that address the academic impact of lost instructional time by addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs—particularly for student populations most impacted by the pandemic. For example, Arkansas’ Tutoring Corps program will create a system to recruit, prepare, and support candidates to become qualified tutors to support the students most impacted by lost instructional time. Massachusetts will use federal funding to provide early literacy tutoring grants and a K-8 Math Acceleration program. Montana is planning to use ARP ESSER funding to provide additional professional development for educators who serve in districts with significant populations of American Indian students to facilitate culturally responsive instruction to addressinequities exacerbated by the pandemic. Kentucky is planning to support its schools and districts in creating acceleration plans that provide students with more time and dedicated attention, and that focus on immersing students in grade-level standards. And West Virginia will be offering students with disabilities extended year services in conjunction with summer programming, so students can participate in both sets of programs.
ARP ESSER state plans were submitted by the June 7 deadline by Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The Department is working closely with remaining states that did not submit by the deadline, the vast majority of which were due to state board of education or legislative review requirements.
The rigorous and prompt review of these state plans is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader efforts to help schools quickly and safely reopen for in-person instruction, sustain their safe operations, and support educators and other school staff as they meet all students’ social, emotional, mental health and academic needs.
In addition to providing $122 billion to support the safe and continued reopening of K-12 schools in the ARP ESSER Fund, the Administration also has:
- Released Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 of the COVID-19 Handbook
- Released guidance on Maintenance of Effort and Maintenance of Equity requirements and worked with states to ensure that they fulfill these important responsibilities as they use federal funds,
- Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit,
- Launched the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse,
- Called on states to prioritize vaccinations for educators and eligible students, and
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for PreK-12 educators, staff, and students.
Also, later this month, the Department will launch an Equity Summit Series to help more states and schools address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic and ensure every student feels safe, supported, and set up for success in their classroom.