U.S. Department of Education Approves Connecticut’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $369 Million to State

On Friday, Aug. 27, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Connecticut’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Connecticut’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 begin the new school year, 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. Connecticut is receiving $1.1 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $369 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Alaska, Illinois, and Louisiana. Today’s approvals mean a total of 32 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June. The Department has approved plans supporting more than 50 percent of students nationwide.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been striving to make the investments necessary to help our school communities meet their areas of greatest need, especially for those students disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker said. “This historic level of funding allows us, as one educational community, to be bold and innovative as we forge our path to a transformative and equitable recovery.”

“These funds were specifically directed by Congress to help schools reopen safely and enable in-person learning to thrive,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Putting students back in Connecticut classrooms is critical to overcoming the setbacks and learning gaps resulting from the pandemic. Our approving this American Rescue Plan funds is a game changing step, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Biden Administration to ensure our schools remain open and safe for students, teachers, and staff.”

“As Connecticut kids head back to school, it is critical that educators have the federal funding necessary to help them thrive,” said Sen. Chris Murphy. “I am grateful Connecticut continues to be a leader in addressing the needs of all our students by putting together a plan that meets this moment. The Department of Education’s approval of this plan means Connecticut’s educators will soon have an additional $369 million to support our children’s academic, social, mental, and emotional needs as we continue to navigate COVID-19.”

“Students have faced the devastating impacts of the pandemic, and funding from the American Rescue Plan has already supported local school districts in addressing their needs,” said Rep. Jahana Hayes. “This latest ESSER funding from the Department of Education fulfills a promise to Connecticut students and families. As resources are made available, the funding from the American Rescue Plan will get them safely to schools and address learning loss, and the social, economic, and emotional toll the last year has had on students, educators, and our communities at large.”

The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Connecticut, 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: The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) expects school districts to offer in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year.
  • Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: CSDE will use ARP ESSER resources to support a model K-8 curricula. This will include high-quality instructional materials that will be made available on the state’s Open Education Resources portal; two digital platforms to support learning acceleration and credit recovery; high-dosage tutoring to support students with specific learning disabilities; and expanded pathways to educator certification focusing on multilingual educators, special education educators, educators of color, and male educators. Additionally, CSDE will partner with the juvenile justice system and contracted residential treatment programs to provide high-quality instructional resources, devices, and access to digital curricula to align with the public school setting.
  • Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: CSDE launched a competitive Expansion Grant program to provide up to $25,000 to summer enrichment programs to expand capacity for summer 2021 and an Innovation Grant program to provide up to $250,000 to summer enrichment programs that scale-up summer enrichment opportunities. For summer 2021, more than $8.6 million was allocated to grant recipients. The state is taking a similar approach to fund comprehensive afterschool programs.
  • Supporting Students’ and Educators Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs: CSDE will use ARP ESSER funds to help address the mental health challenges of transitioning back to the classroom. CSDE will fund schools to partner with community-based mental health agencies to provide on-site mental health specialists to support students. Other potential investments include support for existing mental health providers, working with or creating more school-based health centers, and hiring or deploying more behavioral health staff.
  • Supporting Family Engagement: CSDE will use ARP ESSER funding to support school district efforts to strengthen educators’ engagement with families. CSDE is continually engaging with stakeholders, including community-based and parent organizations, to determine the best use of ARP ESSER funds to further family and community engagement and to support districts in their efforts. As CSDE implements the initiatives outlined in the state plan, additional future family and community engagement efforts to gather input may include, but are not limited to, public forums, ThoughtExchanges, community visits, focus groups, and surveys. CSDE will update its plan as appropriate when additional specific strategies are determined.

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:

  • 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
  • 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.

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