Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Kentucky’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Kentucky’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 gear up for the return to school, 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. Kentucky is receiving $2 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 Alabama, Indiana, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Carolina. Today’s approvals mean a total of 28 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June. The Department has approved plans supporting more than 50 percent of students nationwide.
“I am excited to announce approval of Kentucky’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, 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.”
“I am grateful for the approval of Kentucky’s ARP ESSER plan,” said Jason E. Glass, commissioner of education, Kentucky Department of Education. “This plan will assist in the safe reopening and in-person operation of our schools, while addressing not only the academic needs of our students, but their social, emotional and mental health needs as well. Instead of returning to the traditional way of doing things, our priority is to return to a better than normal school year.”
“The pandemic has presented countless challenges for students, parents, and educators over the past year and a half—both inside the classroom and out,” said Rep. John Yarmuth. “With a new school year starting, I am thrilled that the Department of Education has approved Kentucky’s transformative plan to assist schools in safely reopening, addressing learning loss, and providing key support to students and educators as our recovery continues. As the lead sponsor of the American Rescue Plan, I’m proud to have played a part in securing this funding—the largest one-time investment in K-12 education in our nation’s history.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Kentucky, 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 Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Kentucky Department of Public Health collaborated on more than 50 guidance documents, promoted early vaccination for the education workforce, and facilitated in the creation of COVID-19 vaccination sites at schools. Facemasks will be required in all preschool through 12th grade settings.
Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: KDE will offer professional development in literacy instruction for educators and staff, and increase student and teacher access to high-quality and instructional resources. KDE also has provided guidance and will offer technical assistance to implement accelerated learning summer programs with integrated social-emotional learning, high-intensity tutoring, and vacation academies.
Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: KDE is offering summer learning grants in 2021 to districts that provide comprehensive summer learning programs to expand access to populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, reduce financial and physical access barriers, and expand and improve programs. KDE will provide technical assistance and monitor effectiveness of these grantees. Additionally, KDE also will fund a summer enrichment program with AmeriCorps focused on outdoor environmental education activities.
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 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.