5 more states get fed’s approval for Covid relief spending

Funds support safe in-person instruction and meeting students' emotional and academic needs
By: | July 15, 2021

Promoting transparency with the public about decision-making and expectations regarding the use of stimulus funding is just one of the priorities Tennessee has included in its plan, one of five ARP ESSER state plans approved by the U.S. Education Department on Thursday.

The state plans break down how states are using and plan to use ARP ESSER funds to support safe in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students, particularly those most affected by the pandemic. ED distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to those states.

Tennessee developed an ESSER planning guidance document and webpage of additional resources to provide transparency to the public. It also plans to fund high-dosage tutoring throughout the state.

“Tennessee’s ARP ESSER plan prioritizes strategic, student-centered investments to help accelerate learning, and we are proud to receive approval on our plan from the U.S. Department of Education,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn in an ED press release. “In Tennessee, we are maximizing over $4 billion in K-12 funding to provide all students with essential academic supports like statewide tutoring and early reading resources, and to strengthen programs that support student readiness and our educators. With additional policy and funding investments at the state level, Tennessee is dedicated to ensuring the best for all students.”

Here are highlights of the other four state plans approved today, resulting in the release of nearly $3.5 billion in additional ARP ESSER funds:

  • West Virginia will add two new state technical assistance centers to the already existing three, which will support evidence-based interventions through professional development programs. These will focus on grades 6-12 STEM and student support and wellbeing. The state is also allowing districts to use ESSER funds to support mental health services and programs for staff to address stress or trauma brought on by COVID-19 and its impacts on communities.
  • Oregon plans to offer interventions designed to address the academic impact of lost instructional time on historically underserved students and students that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will use data to identify students missing the most in-person instruction and evaluate the level of participation by attendance and enrollment data.
  • Oklahoma plans to partner with Oklahoma colleges and universities to create a Math Tutoring Corps to help address middle and high school learning disruptions due to the pandemic. It is also investing in science and math professional development opportunities for educators and student teaching and first-year teacher induction programs. The state will also launch new social-emotional learning competencies.
  • Ohio will prioritize trauma-informed and culturally responsive practices to meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs when they come back to school this summer and this coming school year.

The department dispersed $81 billion of the ARP ESSER funds to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining portion of funding to states will be made available once plans are approved.

A total of 40 states have submitted their ARP ESSER state plans to ED, which is reviewing the plans and communicating with states to ensure their plans meet requirements. ED is also in contact with states that have not yet submitted plans, the vast majority of which are due to state board of education or legislative review requirements.

Cara Nissman covers autism, school psychology, and IEP team issues for LRP Publications.