On April 21, the U.S. Department of Education released the state plan application template for the remaining tranche of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESESR) funds authorized under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021. Last month, states received access to two-thirds of their ARP ESSER allocation—a total of $81 billion. States’ allocations of the remaining $41 billion will become available after their plans are approved by the Department. In their applications, states must demonstrate broad stakeholder engagement, detail their current status and needs and describe plans for:
- Safely reopening schools and sustaining their safe operations
- The use and coordination of ARP ESSER Funds
- Maximizing state-level funds to support students
- Supporting Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in planning for and meeting students’ needs
- Supporting the educator workforce
- Monitoring and measuring progress
In addition to the state plans, the Department of Education will also require school districts to seek broad public input and develop their own plans for the use of ARP ESSER funds. This is in addition to the statutory requirement in the American Rescue Plan that school districts develop a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services.
Along with sharing a tax base with local school boards and providing complementary services to local students, counties play a role in supporting and funding K-12 schools in six states: Alaska, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Regardless of the county role in funding K-12 schools, county officials recognize that safe school reopening is vitally important for child wellbeing and economic recovery.
The Department of Education has developed several new resources to support school reopening, including an online hub for the ARP funding, two volumes of a COVID-19 handbook focused on health, safety and educational equity and a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
NACo will continue to monitor implementation of education relief under the American Rescue Plan Act and potential implications for county governments.