Nearly 700 superintendents plead for ARP spending deadline to be extended

District leaders are awaiting a reply from U.S. Secretary Miguel Cardona to provide guidance on ESSER III spending.

In a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Monday, nearly 700 superintendents from AASA, The School Superintendents Association, are pleading for a response from the U.S. Department of Education on their consideration to further extend the American Rescue Plan (also known as ESSER III) spending deadline.

“We continue to act with great urgency in investing ESSER funding in our classrooms and buildings,” the letter states. “Additional time to liquidate the ARP funds ensures that we maintain the critical pandemic-related services that our students require to overcome the challenges of the past three academic years.”

The most recent data from Burbio, a business intelligence platform, indicates that nearly 40% of districts have spent less than 20% of ESSER III funding. Additionally, 55.8% have only spent nearly 30%.

In May, the U.S. Department of Education said in a letter to AASA that they would consider requests for an 18-month liquidation extension of ARP funds beyond the current deadline. As of now, districts must commit to spending their ARP funds by Sept. 30, 2024. The extension would give districts until March 31, 2026.

Superintendents asked the ED to provide detailed guidance on the extension in July, but as this week’s letter indicates, they’re still patiently waiting.

“We urge your timely reply to the more detailed July 22, 2022 letter sent to you by national member organizations and national service organizations to provide districts with crucial guidance as far in advance as possible on whether we can have additional time to liquidate funds, the circumstances under which it will be permissible, and the process for receiving approval,” the letter writes.

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According to July’s letter, district leaders are asking for expedited clarification regarding:

  • Whether ESSER III funding would be extended in addition to ESSER I and ESSER II funding.
  • If the ED could allow states to submit a blanket request for extensions that cover all districts in one state, rather than on a case-by-case basis.
  • If the extension could be extended beyond 18 months to December 31, 2026, so schools can use their funds through the end of the 2025-2026 school year.

“The sooner we know whether a liquidation extension can be granted, the better we can plan for the most effective and efficient use of ESSER funds,” this week’s letter writes. “As a result, we encourage you to strongly consider a blanket liquidation extension that would allow districts to clarify that funds will be used for allowable activities and properly obligated by the statutory deadline.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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