As the Department of Education releases $122 billion directly to states as part of the American Rescue Plan, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is encouraging states to make sure students who have been hit hardest by COVID-19 are provided with the resources and support they need. American Rescue Plan funds can be used by SEAs and school districts to equitably expand opportunities for students who need the funds most, including students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and students with inadequate access to technology.
Under the plan, states with large numbers of English learners will receive considerable windfalls— California $15 billion, Texas $12.5, New York $9, Florida $7, Illinois $5, Georgia $4, and Puerto Rico $3 billion.
The funds are intended to support efforts to reopen K-12 schools safely this month and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most. Cardona delivered the news directly to state education commissioners in a letter and said the Department will begin to make these funds available to state educational agencies (SEAs) this month.
“This pandemic has taken an extraordinary toll on students, parents, educators, and schools, and we know that our schools, students, and communities need help now to reopen safely and quickly, and to stay open,” said Cardona. “These funds from the American Rescue Plan and the extraordinary steps the Department is taking to get these resources to states quickly will allow schools to invest in mitigation strategies to get students back in the classroom and stay there, and address the many impacts this pandemic has had on students—especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”
In his letter, Secretary Cardona urged states and school districts to utilize these funds with the same sense of urgency the President and Congress used to pass the American Rescue Plan Act and with the same commitment that families and educators have to getting students back in classrooms for in-person instruction safely.
The ARP ESSER funds may be used to address the many impacts of COVID-19 on pre-K through 12 education, including:
- Investing in resources to implement CDC’s K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff, and students safe; improving ventilation; purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE); and obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing in classrooms.
- Avoiding devastating layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff, and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing.
- Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools.
- Funding crucial summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
- Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff, to keep schools safe and healthy.
- Providing for social distancing and safety protocols on buses.
- Funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without connectivity for remote learning and supporting educators in the effective use of technology; and
- Additional uses as allowed in the statute.
Secretary Cardona also reaffirmed the Department’s ongoing commitment to providing technical assistance, guidance, and best practices to states as they work to utilize these funds.
Additional information, including an ARP ESSER Fact Sheet and allocation tables, can be found at https://oese.ed.gov/american-rescue-plan-elementary-and-secondary-school-emergency-relief.