Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of North Carolina’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. North Carolina’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. North Carolina is receiving $3.6 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $1.2 billion. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Idaho, Maine, and Nevada. Today’s approvals mean a total of 37 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 North Carolina’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 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.”
“North Carolina’s plan for this funding isn’t just about recovering from the pandemic—it’s about rebuilding and re-envisioning the education landscape in our state,” said North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. “This plan is a product of thoughtful collaboration across the department and among key partners, including the General Assembly, with a focus on strategically investing money to meet the unique needs of every student. The newly-established Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration is prepared to direct these funds in ways that will support teachers, uplift students, and engage our community so we can foster a resilient recovery, where students are presented with better outcomes and new opportunities.”
“This pandemic has placed a remarkable strain on our students, educators, schools, and families,” said Rep. Deborah Ross. “Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration responded by passing the American Rescue Plan, providing billions of dollars in unprecedented relief to our K-12 schools so they may reopen safely and expand opportunities for students who need it most. I am glad to see the Department of Education approve North Carolina’s plan, and I look forward to working with officials at the local, state, and federal level to ensure the continued success of our students and educators.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including North Carolina, 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:
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) will consider specific evidence-based interventions, including $30,000,000 for high-impact tutoring statewide, $19,000,000 for a competency-based assessment and platform to be used across the state, and $35,000,000 for a competitive grant program for school extensions.
- Staffing to Support Students’ Needs: The Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration is working with health-care professionals to improve health and educational outcomes for children in North Carolina. The team is currently working to expand an existing model that provides elementary schools with access to pediatricians via telehealth technologies. Early indications show this telehealth option reduces barriers to care for students resulting in improved health outcomes for children, reduced chronic absenteeism, and a decrease in the impact of health-care related costs on parents or caregivers.
A total of 49 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 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 pre-K-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.