Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of South Carolina’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. South 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 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. South Carolina is receiving $2.1 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $705 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, and North Dakota. 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 South 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 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.”
“South Carolina’s ARP ESSER plan prioritizes the needs of our students, their families, and school communities as we recover from the pandemic and embark on a once in a generation opportunity to retool our state’s education system,” said South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “We look forward to carrying out the programs and initiatives detailed in our state plan as well as supporting our schools and districts as they work to implement evidence-based practices now and into the future.”
“The COVID pandemic has taken a great toll on students and educators. I am pleased the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan has provided these critical resources to schools as they are gearing up for the third academic year faced with the uncertainty of this virulent virus,” Rep. James E. Clyburn said. “Ensuring our students are able to learn in a safe and healthy environment should be our top priority. I commend Secretary Cardona and the U.S. Department of Education’s work to get these resources distributed efficiently, effectively and equitably, so that students in South Carolina can have confidence that the federal government is looking out for their health and safety.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including South 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:
- Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations:The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) partnered with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to promote a vaccine confidence campaign among the state’s families, educators, and school communities. The campaign includes a communication’s toolkit, answers to frequently asked questions, and vaccination events tailored to schools and communities. The agencies also have provided school operational guidance ahead of the upcoming school year based on lessons learned from the pandemic and the latest public health guidance.
- Focusing on Early Learning:SCDE plans to provide training and instructional materials to schools where 33% or more of 3rd graders scored in the lowest performance level on the 2019 state summative reading or language arts assessment. The training and materials must meet evidence-based criteria in the science of reading. SCDE will partner with SC First Steps to School Readiness to support transitioning students into pre-k and kindergarten, recruit and retain pre-K teachers, engage parents, and monitor the health of early learners through early identification and referrals.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: SCDE will work with partners to provide high dosage tutoring to students, identified through data, who have been most impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, SCDE will partner with the SC Commission on Higher Education and Technical College Board to develop pathways to post-secondary education and will engage local communities in identifying adults who have not earned a diploma and provide online access and support on the GED and family literacy. SCDE will also support adult education students who were disconnected from the education process during the pandemic and support these adults in earning a GED.
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.