ED OK’s 4 more state ARP ESSER plans, bringing total to 32

Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, and Louisiana have plans approved. To date, 46 states and D.C. have submitted plans for review.
By: | August 27, 2021
Seal of the U.S. Department of Education

The Education Department announced Aug. 27 that it has approved ARP ESSER state plans for Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, and Louisiana, bringing the total number of approved plans to 32.

The department’s approval of the states’ ARP ESSER plans makes the remaining one-third of their ARP ESSER allocations available. ED awarded $81 billion in ARP ESSER funds to states this spring, with the condition that the remainder of funding would be provided to states upon approval of their ARP ESSER plans. To date, 46 states and the District of Columbia have submitted ARP ESSER plans for review and approval, ED said.

“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,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement. “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.”

Following are some highlights of each of the newly approved ARP ESSER state plans.

Alaska: “Alaska’s ARP ESSER state plan supports face-to-face instruction; expands social, emotional and mental health supports; and implements strategies to reduce impacts of lost instructional time,” said Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Michael Johnson. The SEA will support evidence-based reading instruction for K-5 students, professional development for teachers on the science of reading, and provide high-quality instructional material available statewide, as well as academic tutoring, work-based learning, and general school-improvement efforts. The SEA is also using ARP ESSER funds to support “in-house” social workers who will work with local educational agencies in rural and remote districts and provide PD on trauma-engaged practices, virtual self¿care, training on reducing student stress and depression, support for escalating anxiety of staff and students, social-emotional learning, and school mental health-related resources.

Connecticut: “This historic level of funding allows us, as one educational community, to be bold and innovative as we forge our path to a transformative and equitable recovery,” said Connecticut Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker. The SEA is using ARP ESSER funds to support a model K-8 curricula, including high-quality instructional materials, digital learning platforms to support student and learning acceleration and credit recovery, high-dosage tutoring for students with specific learning disabilities, and expanded educator certification pathways. The state is also using ARP ESSER funds to partner with community-based mental health agencies to provide mental-health specialists at schools to help students, as well as expanding family engagement efforts.

Illinois: “The approval of our state plan will allow us to make even greater equity-driven investments in teacher retention and students’ mental health and academic growth,” said Illinois State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala. “As part of our state plan, school districts will receive an additional $300 million distributed through the Evidence-Based Funding tiers, so communities can address the local impact of the pandemic on students’ learning and wellbeing.” The SEA will provide $345 million in formula-based funding to all LEAs and special education cooperatives for evidence-based interventions to respond to the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on certain student groups. In addition, the SEA is using $50 million in ARP ESSER funds for a competitive grant program that will create community partnerships to serve student and staff social, emotional, and mental health needs in communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Louisiana“Our goal is to aggressively and transparently direct ESSER resources toward statewide investments that will recover and accelerate student learning,” said Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley. “I’m excited to see the tremendous progress our students will make by school systems collectively focusing their funds, time, and effort into areas that bolster student achievement.” The SEA is using a discretionary grant process to distribute ARP ESSER funds reserved for addressing lost instructional time, prioritized by which students were most impacted by the pandemic. It is also using ARP ESSER funds to provide “literacy screeners” to school systems, as well as strengthening the teacher pipeline by providing retention supports for new teachers, increasing the number of prospective teachers in the “pipeline,” and increasing the number of local educators who are content leaders that can provide effective professional development.

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

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