Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Alabama’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Alabama’s plan details how the state is using and plans to use ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As schools and states gear up for the return to school, the Department released the Return To School Roadmap, which provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning. ARP funds can be used to support the roadmap’s efforts.
Earlier this year, the Department distributed two thirds of the ARP ESSER funds, totaling $81 billion, to 50 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining third of the funding to states will be made available once state plans are approved. Alabama is receiving $2 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $674 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Carolina. Today’s approvals mean a total of 28 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June. The Department has approved plans supporting more than 50 percent of students nationwide.
“I am excited to announce approval of Alabama’s plan,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities, particularly as we move into the summer and look ahead to the upcoming academic year. 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. 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.”
“We’re delighted to see that our plan has been approved,” said Dr. Eric G. Mackey, state superintendent of education. “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.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Alabama, show how states are using federal pandemic resources to support safe in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students—with a focus on the students most impacted by the pandemic. For example:
- Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: Partnerships between school districts and county health department officials have included screenings and vaccinations to eligible school community members. The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) has used federal relief funds for salaries or wages for healthcare professionals or aides to provide COVID-19 response and mitigation services in schools.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: ALSDE will use ARP ESSER funds in 2021 to support LEAs to address students most impacted by the pandemic via summer reading camps for grades K-3. The summer reading camps will provide direct, explicit, and systematic reading intervention services and supports to improve any identified area of reading deficiency. At a minimum, 70 hours of scientifically based reading instruction and intervention must take place.
- Supporting Students’ and Educators Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs: To support improved mental health and social emotional needs, ALSDE will further prioritize comprehensive wraparound services within a multi-tiered support system. ALSDE will continue to provide detailed guidance to districts for utilizing federal funds to increase student access to key support staff and expand grant funding to districts. These funds will support the hiring and supplies of key support staff including nurses, school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and other support professionals.
A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia have submitted their ARP ESSER state plans to the Department. The Department is reviewing the plans expeditiously and is in contact with states to ensure their plans meet all necessary requirements in order to access the remaining funds, as outlined in the ARP. The Department also is 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.
The distribution of ARP ESSER funds is part of the Department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to reengage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and build our education system back better than before. In addition to providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools and meet the needs of all students, the Biden-Harris Administration also has:
- Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook.
- Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care workers. As of the end of May an estimated 84% of teachers and school staff were fully vaccinated.
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for PreK-12 educators, staff, and students.
- Launched a series of Equity Summits focused on addressing inequities that existed before, but were made worse by the pandemic.
- Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved communities.
- Developed a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse elevating hundreds of best practices to support schools’ efforts to reopen safely and address the impacts of COVID-19 on students, educators, and communities.
In addition to the actions the Biden Administration has taken to reopen schools, the President has proposed critical investments through his Build Back Better agenda that will enable schools to rebuild stronger than they were before the pandemic, such as investing billions to build a diverse educator workforce, expand access to pre-K to all families, and invest in school infrastructure, among other provisions.