6 more state COVID relief spending plans approved by Department of Education

ED awarded $81 billion of the more than $122 billion in available ARP ESSER funds to states this spring
By: | August 12, 2021
Kentucky will use some ESSER funding to open COVID-19 vaccination sites at schools.Kentucky will use some ESSER funding to open COVID-19 vaccination sites at schools.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Aug. 12 the approval of ARP ESSER state plans for Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Carolina, bringing the total number of approved plans to 28.

ED awarded $81 billion of the more than $122 billion in available ARP ESSER funds to states this spring with the condition that the remainder of funds would be provided to states upon approval of their ARP ESSER plans. ED says a total of 46 states and the District of Columbia have submitted their ARP ESSER plans for review.

“The state plans that have been submitted to the Department lay the groundwork for the ways in which an unprecedented infusion of federal resources will be used to address the urgent needs of America’s children and build back better,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement announcing the plan approvals.

State education leaders applauded the announcements and cited the intended outcomes of the plans.

“This allows our schools and districts to address the academic impact of lost instructional time as well as mitigate other impacts of the pandemic. Our goal is to emerge stronger and better, ensuring every child has every chance, every day,” said Eric G. Mackey, Alabama state superintendent of education.

“New Jersey’s ARP ESSER state plan represents a significant step in our state’s road forward to empowering students, educators, and schools to safely return to in-person learning while addressing the academic, social, emotional, and mental health impacts of COVID-19,” said Angelina Allen-McMillan, the acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education.

Following are highlights of the state plans approved Aug. 12:

Alabama

The state educational agency is using federal relief funds for healthcare professionals or aides to provide COVID-19 response and mitigation services in schools. The SEA is also using ARP ESSER funds in 2021 to support LEAs to address students most impacted by the pandemic via summer reading camps for grades K-3 that will provide at least 70 hours of scientifically based reading instruction and intervention.

The SEA is also providing wraparound services within a multitiered system of supports to support mental health and social-emotional needs, and providing guidance and grant funds to local educational agencies to increase student access to support staff, including nurses, school counselors, social workers, and psychologists. Alabama’s plan.

Indiana

The SEA is working in conjunction with the state department of health to provide guidance on maintaining student, educator, and other staff health. The state is also soliciting comments from the public on its evidence-based interventions that will address the impact of lost instructional time, including in summer and afterschool programs.

The state will support and provide incentives to local communities to “reimagine” educational opportunities. The state is also using $2.5 million in ARP ESSER and IDEA Part B funds to support educator licensure in high-need areas as determined by the state, including special education and English learner instruction. Indiana’s plan.

Kentucky

The state departments of education and public health collaborated on 50 guidance documents, early vaccination for educators, and COVID-19 vaccination sites at schools. The SEA will provide professional development on literacy instruction for educators and staff and provide increased access to high-quality resources for students and teachers.

In addition, eight education cooperatives have contracted with the SEA to create a Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations team to help schools and districts with learning acceleration and social-emotional learning needs caused by the pandemic. Kentucky’s plan.

New Jersey

The state is providing guidance and technical assistance to local educational agencies on using ARP ESSER funds on allowable activities to improve educational equity, and will require LEA ARP ESSER plans to include descriptions of how they will include an equity focus on their return to in-person instruction plans. The state is also implementing a formula grant for districts to implement professional development for educators on providing learning acceleration and interventions to better meet student needs.

The state will also use funds on programs that improve school climate, provide social and emotional learning supports, encourage culturally responsive practices in teaching, increasing digital and data literacy, and community engagement of parents and teachers to personalize learning. New Jersey’s plan.

North Dakota

The SEA is using $7 million in ARP ESSER funds to invest in early childhood education, partnering with the North Dakota Department of Human Services to offer “high-quality, well-resourced classrooms for 4-year-olds through grants of $120,000 available to public, private, and religious organizations.”

The SEA is also implementing evidence-based interventions for K-12 students to include summer school, literacy development, priority standards, and an Innovation Zone project that blends traditional classroom instruction with adaptive digital and online curricula to help address unfinished learning needs for students. North Dakota’s plan.

South Carolina

The SEA will use ARP ESSER funds to collaborate with institutions of higher education to employ postsecondary students as summer teaching interns beginning in 2021, with funds provided as stipends or summer tuition that covers coursework to prepare them to deliver high quality, evidence-based instruction in afterschool and summer learning.

The state also plans to provide training and instructional materials to schools where at least one-third of third-grade students scored at the lowest performance level on summative reading or language arts assessments in 2019. The state is also partnering with providers to offer high-dosage tutoring to students who have been most adversely affected by lost instructional time due to the pandemic. South Carolina’s plan.

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