Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Vermont’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to the state. Vermont’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 December, with the help of American Rescue Plan funds, nearly all schools are 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 will be made available once state plans are approved. Vermont is receiving more than $285 million total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $95 million. Today’s approvals mean a total of 51 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Vermont’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.”
“With the input of stakeholders statewide, Vermont developed a plan to leverage these transformative federal funds through pandemic response to education recovery and beyond,” said Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French. “The plan addresses the pressing social emotional and academic needs of Vermont students in our schools today, while making investments that will transform brick and mortar facilities and reimagine education for Vermont students in the future.”
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for everyone, including learning losses for our students,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy. “The Biden-Harris Administration and Congress have risen to these unprecedented challenges with resources through the American Rescue Plan. I am glad to see the Department of Education approve Vermont’s plan. These investments in Vermont will promote safe learning and help us deal with learning loss and the social and emotional toll that the last year has taken on Vermont’s students, educators and communities.”
“It is no secret that this has been a disruptive time for all of us, but especially for our young people,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “It is absolutely essential that we do everything we possibly can to support Vermont students in the coming months and years as we recover from these challenges. That is why I am very proud to have secured significant funding for summer and after school programming and community schools in the American Rescue Plan and this new funding from the Department of Education gives us a real opportunity to continue the programs that our students want and need. Together, we can ensure young people throughout our state, from Pre-K to 12th grade, do not miss out on critical opportunities even during a global pandemic.”
“This pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for students, parents, and educators,” said Rep. Peter Welch. “I’m pleased that the Department of Education has approved Vermont’s plans to use funds from the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief program to support our school communities. With these resources, Vermont students will receive the help they need to learn and grow through the ongoing pandemic, and educators will be supported in the critical work they do for our children and communities. ESSER ARP funds are essential to regaining lost learning and addressing educational disparities highlighted by the pandemic. The pandemic has also taken a toll on the emotional wellbeing of our students, parents and educators and this aid will help us begin to heal in a more complete way.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department, including Vermont’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:
- Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations:The Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) is partnering with other statewide agencies to vaccinate all Vermonters, including eligible students. AOE will use $1 million in ARP ESSER funds to support a Vaccine Incentive Program that will make awards to schools that achieve a student vaccination rate of 85 % or higher. Vermont has achieved a high rate of vaccination for eligible student populations by targeting vaccine clinics to school sites, and through a sustained interagency public information campaign and the leadership and support of school administrators and staff. To build on this success, beginning in 2022 additional funds through the Vaccine Incentive Program will further encourage vaccination for all Vermont students.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time:AOE is prioritizing early literacy with the use of ARP ESSER funds. Vermont is using $3 million to support teachers in delivering evidence-based practices for literacy instruction, with a focus on students in kindergarten through third grade.
- Expanding Access to Community Schools:AOE is using ARP ESSER funds to launch a multi-year program to implement Community Schools across the state. Vermont’s Community Schools will embed medical, mental health, social services, and other supports within the school setting, especially to meet the needs of rural communities. AOE used ARP ESSER funds to award five grants for Community Schools this fall.
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:
- Held the Return To School Road Trip, a bus tour that visited schools across five states in five days to celebrate the safe return to school
- Announced new mental health resources to provide information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students.
- Launched the Return To School Roadmap to provide key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outline how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning.
- Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook.
- Hosted a National Safe School Reopening Summit./li>
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care workers.
- 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. The Build Back Better legislation will offer universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and, make education beyond high school more affordable—including offering more trainings and apprenticeships, by increasing the maximum Pell Grant and expanding access to DREAMers. It will also make historic investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and minority-serving institutions.