5 more COVID spending plans get thumbs up from Department of Education

$81 billion in ARP ESSER funds were awarded to states this spring
By: | July 22, 2021
Students work together at the Sioux City Career Academy in Iowa, which received approval for its state COVID relief spending plan.Students work together at the Sioux City Career Academy in Iowa, which received approval for its state COVID relief spending plan.

The U.S. Education Department announced has approved five additional state ESSER plans, which are required as a condition of receiving a portion of the more than $122 billion in funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and New Mexico join 11 other state educational agencies that previously received approval for their plans to spend ARP ESSER funds to address educational needs caused by or related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some $81 billion in ARP ESSER funds were awarded to states this spring, with the condition that the remaining funding would be provided to states upon approval of their ARP ESSER plans.

“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,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement announcing the new approvals.

“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.”

Following are some of the highlights of the newly approved state plans:

  • Delaware: The state conducted a multiagency program to provide vaccinations to more than 16,000 educators from public, private, and charter schools. The state also invested in high-dosage tutoring, expanding access to online reading platforms, and expanding access to high-quality instructional materials during summer 2021, and plans to use ESSER funds to provide services to students who have lost the most instructional time, provide professional educator development on using data effectively to meet student needs, provide supports for students and families that are accessible in families’ home languages, and provide mental health literacy, support, and counseling.
  • Georgia: The state used ARP ESSER for summer learning and enrichment programs as well as afterschool programs during summer 2021 and is also working with the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network to administer Building Opportunities in Out-of-School Time (also known as BOOST) Grants, which will provide three-year grants that provide extended or expanded learning time programs during the summer and school year. The state is sending continuous improvement teams that will help expand access to bandwidth, infrastructure, and equipment for learning; instructional materials that are aligned with the state standards; and professional development that is responsive and relevant.
  • Iowa: The state will support local educational agencies’ use of multi-tier systems of supports and early warning systems to identify which students have been most significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will track data including reading, math, attendance, discipline, and assessment results as well as the interventions that have been used. The state will also provide professional development and coaching, as well as lists of evidence-based practices and interventions that address the impact of lost instructional time on students. ARP ESSER funds will also support comprehensive, evidence-based before- and afterschool programs.
  • Kansas: The state is using summative assessment data from SY 2020-21 to determine student learning trends and is supporting state examination of attendance records to see which students were persistently absent or disengaged in SY 2020-21. To address the impact of lost instructional time, the SEA is using evidence-based interventions, as well as professional development on teaching language and literacy, standards-based mathematics, social-emotional learning, screening, and progress monitoring, as well as progress toward meeting state academic standards. The state is also rolling out a statewide tool that will help local educational agencies decide how to spend ARP ESSER funds.
  • New Mexico: The state is encouraging schools to coordinate with the department of health to host onsite vaccination clinics and is also planning to provide incentives to encourage student and staff vaccination. The state will use a portion of its ARP ESSER funding for accelerated learning strategies that include professional development on academic acceleration, communities of practice, high-dosage evidence-based tutoring programs, and peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring. The state also used ARP ESSER funding to provide grants for summer enrichment and learning programs in STEM, outdoor environmental education, arts and cultural programs that are museum-based, programs for at-risk youths, and career and technical education programs.

The Department of Education has received ARP ESSER state plans from 41 states and the District of Columbia and is continuing to review proposals and engage with state leaders to provide feedback and guidance as needed.

More from DA: Feds approve several states’ K-12 Covid relief spending plans 

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.