Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) released the State plan application that will support states in describing how they will use resources under the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) fund to continue to safely reopen schools, sustain their safe operations, and support students—especially those most impacted by the pandemic.
Last month, states received access to two-thirds of their ARP ESSER allocation—a total of $81 billion. The remaining $41 billion will become available after states’ plans are approved by the Department. After the final one-third of funds are made available, states would have received access to nearly $122 billion to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s students.
“Throughout my recent school visits, I have witnessed how federal relief dollars are being used to help schools reopen safely and communities recover from the impacts of the pandemic,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “These American Rescue Plan funds are essential to providing more in-person learning options for students quickly, sustaining schools’ safe operations, supporting our students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs, and boldly addressing inequities that were exacerbated by the pandemic. In developing plans to utilize these funds, it’s critical that states and districts bring to the table the voices of those who can best speak to how we can meet these goals, including students, parents, educators, and stakeholders.”
Today’s action demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued commitment to support states in their ongoing efforts to sustain the safe reopening of schools and to maximize in-person instruction safely and quickly.
The State plan application presents an opportunity for states and local education agencies to engage the public to ensure that the needs of students and communities are best reflected in state and local spending plans. Many states and school districts are already actively developing their plans for the use of ARP ESSER funds. At the state level, stakeholder engagement must include students; families; Tribal Nations; civil rights organizations, including disability rights organizations; teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff and their unions, school and district administrators; superintendents; charter school leaders; and other stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students.
In addition to the State plans, school districts will also be required to seek broad public input and develop their own plans for the use of ARP ESSER funds. This is in addition to the statutory requirement in the American Rescue Plan that school districts develop a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services.
In the State plan, states will describe how they will ensure states and school districts are demonstrating transparency in their planning, identify and meet the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic, choose effective evidence-based interventions, and prioritize educational equity, inclusive stakeholder engagement, and strong fiscal safeguards. These plans will provide critical information to the public and the Department about the use of these unprecedented resources. The plans will also inform the Department’s technical assistance to states and school districts, as well as the Department’s approach to monitoring implementation of ARP ESSER funds.
States must submit their ARP ESSER State plans by June 7, 2021. The Department will begin approving applications and disbursing the remaining ARP ESSER funds expeditiously once plans are received and reviewed.
To support states in completing their ARP ESSER State Plans and meeting ARP ESSER requirements, the Department has also issued an accompanying notice of interim final requirements with additional details. The notice is available here: https://oese.ed.gov/offices/american-rescue-plan/american-rescue-plan-elementary-and-secondary-school-emergency-relief/.
States must also commit to several actions as part of their receipt of ARP ESSER funds. One addresses civil rights protections, reflecting the state’s responsibility to ensure that it will conduct all its operations so that no person shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination based on race, color, national origin, which includes a person’s limited English proficiency or English learner status and a person’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics; sex; age; or disability. Other important commitments address transparency and compliance with ARP ESSER requirements such as uses of funds, maintenance of effort, and maintenance of equity.
Today’s actions are part of the Biden Administration’s broader efforts to help schools quickly and safely reopen for in-person instruction. In addition to providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools, the Biden Administration has:
- Released two volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook, which provide roadmaps and strategies to support the safe reopening of all America’s schools and to promote educational equity by addressing opportunity gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
- Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit, where districts, educators, school leaders, and students shared best practices on how to reopen schools quickly and safely.
- Called on states to prioritize vaccinations for educators. According to a recent CDC survey, 80 percent of educators received at least one vaccination by the end of March.
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for PreK-12 educators, staff, and students.