Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Florida’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distribution of the remaining funds. Florida’s plan details how the state is using and plans to use ARP ESSER funds to 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 of this week, with the help of American Rescue Plan funds, about 96% of all schools were open for full-time, in-person instruction. The Department recently issued a new resource to state and local leaders stressing the importance of full-time, safe, in-person learning and how federal funds can be used to achieve that goal.
Earlier this year, the Department distributed two-thirds of the ARP ESSER funds, totaling $81 billion, to 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The remaining third of the funding to states was made available once a state’s plan was approved. Florida received more than $7 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and the approval of their plan released the final $2.3 billion. All 52 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved.
“I am excited to announce approval of Florida’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. The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to help keep schools open 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.”
“As COVID-19 rates soar across Florida, this federal funding is a vital lifeline to keeping children and classrooms safe and safeguarding our productive learning environments across the state,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “The unwavering leadership of President Biden and Secretary Cardona has been critical to ensuring that students, teachers, and staff can maintain academic success, as well as physical, social, and emotional support, as top education priorities throughout this pandemic.”
“As our country continues navigating the difficult intricacies of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must consider the effects our decisions on the state and federal levels will have on our students,” said Rep. Darren Soto. “I am thrilled to see the Department of Education approve Florida’s plan because it will allow us to mitigate learning loss, enhance support services, and promote the mental and physical health of our students. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we have been able to provide desperately needed resources to our most vulnerable populations and give the American people a chance to recover from this once-in-a-lifetime crisis.”
“After voting to advance the American Rescue Plan through the House Education and Labor Committee and on the House floor, I am incredibly pleased that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Florida’s ARP ESSER plan,” said Rep. Frederica S. Wilson. “Florida will now receive the outstanding portion of its $7 billion ARP ESSER award, which will better equip school districts to safely maintain in-person learning and provide resources to support the overall well-being of students, teachers and support staff during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, school districts can now rely on these critical resources to meet local needs and ensure education equity.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department, including Florida’s, 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:
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) will use ARP ESSER funding to implement a tutoring initiative for students in the early grades focused on closing gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. FDOE also will provide grants to all school districts to invest in evidence-based reading strategies and professional development aligned to the science of reading, including deploying literacy coaches. In addition, FDOE will use ARP ESSER funds to provide formula grants to expand access to STEM programs, to support math acceleration and expand computer science credentials in high schools.
- Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: FDOE will provide matching grants to school districts to enhance or create evidence-based summer learning programs with a focus on reading achievement and evidence-based comprehensive afterschool and weekend programs to support acceleration in literacy achievement.
The distribution of ARP ESSER funds is part of the Department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to re-engage 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:
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care workers leading to more than 90% of school staff vaccinated nationwide.
- Hosted a National Safe School Reopening Summit and launched a series of Equity Summits focused on addressing inequities that existed before but were made worse by the pandemic.
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for PreK-12 educators, staff, and students. As part of the Administration’s efforts to increase access to and implementation of testing programs in schools, the Administration partnered with the CDC and the Rockefeller Foundation to provide resources to help ensure that all schools can access and set up screening testing programs as quickly as possible. The Department also provided aFAQ outlining allowable use of funds for ESSER and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund for coronavirus testing among other uses.
- 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.
- Announced new mental health resourcesto provide information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students.
- Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook to identify evidence-based strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students and support the educator workforce.
- Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved 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. The Build Back Better legislation will offer universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, make child care and education beyond high school more affordable, create more training and apprenticeship opportunities, increase the maximum Pell Grant, and provide historic investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and minority-serving institutions.