ARP ESSER application template, rules released for states

State education agencies must apply for the remaining $41 billion from the American Rescue Plan by June 7. Requirements include meaningful consultation with education stakeholders and the public.
By: | April 22, 2021
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The U.S. Education Department on Thursday released a state application template for the ARP ESSER funds along with a proposed set of priorities for states in receipt of the funds.

ED previously released $81 billion of the $122 billion in ARP ESSER funds in March, with the caveat that the remainder of funds would be released upon state educational agency completion and submission of the application.

“Today, I am pleased to release the state plan template for the ARP ESSER Fund, which is designed to promote comprehensive planning by SEAs and LEAs for the effective use of ARP ESSER funds to reopen schools safely this spring; support sustained access to in-person instruction throughout the spring, summer, and into next school year; and to address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students,” wrote Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in Letter to Chief State School Officers. “Once the department has approved an SEA’s plan, the department will make the SEA’s remaining ARP ESSER allocation available for use, totaling another $41 billion in funding nationwide.”

Cardona said the state application template calls for meaningful consultation with education stakeholders as well as the public as states develop their plans, and will gather information about the following:

  • Current status, priorities, and needs of the SEA and how those considerations will guide ARP ESSER funding decisions.
  • How the SEA will support LEA efforts to safely reopen schools and sustain safe operations.
  • How the SEA will consult with stakeholders and the public, and how it will plan for and coordinate the use of ARP ESSER funds with other resources, including previous ESSER and GEER funding allocations, to meet student needs.
  • How the SEA will maximize the set-aside to address the impact of COVID-19 on underserved students and what evidence-based strategies the SEA will use to meet their needs.
  • How the SEA will support LEAs in developing high-quality plans to address student academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs, and addressing pre-existing opportunity gaps.
  • What strategies the SEA will employ to “support and stabilize the educator workforce,” and how it will make staffing decisions to support academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.
  • How SEAs are building capacity to ensure high-quality data collection and reporting on the use of ARP ESSER funds at the state and local level.

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SEAs must either submit an ARP ESSER application by June 7 or notify ED of the “state requirements that preclude submission of the plan by that date (e.g., because of pre-existing State board approval requirements) and a date by which it will be able to submit its complete ARP ESSER plan.”

New rules for ARP ESSER

ED published new interim final requirements for the ARP ESSER fund in the April 22 edition of the Federal Register. The requirements are effective immediately, but ED will accept comments on the requirements for 30 days following their publication.

Among the new rules for ARP ESSER are a requirement for SEAs to conduct meaningful consultation with stakeholders on its ARP ESSER plan. “Specifically, an SEA is required to consult with students; families; Tribes (if applicable); civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations); school and district administrators (including special education administrators); superintendents; charter school leaders (if applicable); teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff, and their unions; and stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students.”

ED is also requiring that local educational agencies provide specific information in their ARP ESSER applications to SEAs, including:

  • How funds will be used to comply with CDC recommended mitigation strategies to reopen schools and maintain their safe operating status.
  • How the LEA will use the mandatory 20 percent set-aside to address learning loss through evidence-based extended school day or school year programs, afterschool programs, or summer programs.
  • How the LEA will spend its remaining ARP ESSER allocation in compliance with the law.
  • How the LEA will target its evidence-based interventions to students who are underserved or were most significantly affected by COVID-19.

LEAs will also be required to engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders in developing their plans.

To comment on the interim final requirements for ARP ESSER by May 24, go to regulations.gov (docket number ED-2021-OESE-0061).

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

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