On Wednesday, July 7, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Massachusetts’ American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plans and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Massachusetts’ plan details how the state is using and plan 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.
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. Massachusetts is receiving more than $1.8 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $611 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.
“I am excited to announce approval of Massachusetts’ 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.”
“As we continue to grapple with the educational challenges posed by the pandemic, I’m proud to announce this new American Rescue Plan federal funding to support our schools,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey. “These resources were made possible by the tireless advocacy of countless students, parents, educators, and administrators in Massachusetts. These critical funds will go a long way in addressing learning loss caused by the public health crisis and helping schools prepare for the 2021 school year.”
“Our students, educators, and communities have overcome unprecedented challenges to keep our kids learning during this crisis,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “This funding will ensure our schools can reopen in a way that puts the safety of students, teachers, custodians, and other school staff first; supports the mental health and social-emotional well-being of our students; and addresses disparities in education disproportionately felt by students of color.”
“Public education is the bedrock of our democracy and the path to success for our nation’s children, ” said Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark. “But this pandemic has put an immeasurable toll on kids across the country and their families, leading to learning loss and threatening students’ social and emotional learning. I am thrilled that Massachusetts received approval for American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief to ensure that our children can safely return to in-person learning, address disparities in access, and support the teachers and administrators who make it all possible.”
“This funding is critical to supporting and re-engaging students and to accelerating learning,” said Jeffrey C. Riley, Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education. “Districts’ careful use of this money can address many student needs that the pandemic exacerbated, including inequities in access to technology and high quality instructional materials.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Massachusetts, 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:
- Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provided specific guidance on requirements related to the reopening and operation of school facilities. In the 2020-2021 school year, elementary schools returned to full-time, in-person learning in the spring. For the 2021-22 school year, all districts and schools will be required to be in-person, full-time, five days a week. Summer programming in 2021 will also operate in-person.
- Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: DESE has collaborated with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to expand opportunities for vaccinations for faculty and students. Their joint effort led to prioritizing educators for vaccines during March and April with specific days set aside solely for them at mass vaccination sites. Most recently, the Department and DPH have launched an effort to provide on campus vaccination clinics for students, faculty, and family members. Such efforts will continue in the months ahead as vaccines become readily available for younger children and the state will encourage the use of American Rescue Plan ESSER funds for these efforts.
- Accelerating Learning for Students Impacted by the Pandemic: DESE has developed an Acceleration Roadmap designed to provide a focused and phased approach to supporting students as they begin the 2021-22 school year. The state is also considering using ARP ESSER funds for programs like Acceleration Academies, which will create small, hands-on learning environments for Early Literacy and Math.
A total of 40 states 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 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.
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.