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Federal Funding Is Available for States to Address the Challenges of COVID-19

Apple, ruler and pencil on a desk with a backdrop of moneyThe American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), a law providing $122 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER), was established to help state educational agencies and school districts address safety and sustainability concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.  Among other things, the funding provided by the measure is being used by state education systems to accelerate and sustain a safe return to in-person instruction, to expand access to vaccination for staff and students, to fund summer school and to help students cope with the loss of classroom time.   

In June of 2021, the U.S. Department of Education made public an online resource detailing how states plan to use the ARP ESSER funding. The online resource describes, for example, how New Jersey will use the funds to provide state-level support for school nurses and how New Mexico is setting up a $6 million joint program with local municipalities to provide summer internships for middle and high school students. Massachusetts will use the funds to offer summer school matching grants for school districts, and Oklahoma will use approximately $35 million to hire new school counselors, licensed mental health professionals and licensed recreational therapists.

“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.”

Included within the online resource is a spreadsheet containing links to 28 of the actual plans of action submitted by education agencies from around the country. This information can be a useful guide to other education partnerships who want to take advantage of this important financial opportunity. For example,

  • Georgia plans to use the funds for a robust professional learning platform for on-demand learning for all educators and staff. They hope to create online Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) supporting content areas and courses, facilitated by virtual specialists who are experienced Georgia classroom teachers;
  • In Iowa, several LEAs will use the funds for a portion of staff salaries and benefits;
  • In Louisiana, they plan to use the funds to invest in strengthening the educator pipeline while addressing the academic, social, and emotional needs of students; and,
  • In Maine, the Department of Education will collaborate with public and private educators to encourage teacher certification candidates to teach in the state and to encourage and support candidates from under-represented groups to persist with teacher preparation programs.

By making these funds available to states, Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration demonstrate their strong commitment to helping schools reopen quickly, to promoting and sustaining safe school operations, and to supporting educators as they work toward meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of all students.

AACTE encourages its members to visit the online resource and to consider applying for this funding. Additionally, we suggest that you review the Educating for the Future, Today: ARP Funding ToolKit created by AACTE staff to assist members with collaborating with your local districts to allocate the ARP ESSER funds toward strengthening the educator workforce.

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