U.S. Department of Education Approves Wyoming’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $101 Million to State
U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Wyoming’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Wyoming’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 students and states 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. Wyoming is receiving more than $303 million total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $101 million. Additionally, the Department approved Michigan’s state plan. Today’s approvals mean a total of 41 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Wyoming’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 enter 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.”
“Wyoming is anxious to fund and implement transformational educational initiatives that narrow learning gaps and extend learning opportunities,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “My office and I look forward to supporting communities in their endeavors.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Wyoming, 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 Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) developed a Smart Start Guidance document for the reopening of schools. The Smart Start Taskforce facilitated a series of meetings during May and June 2020 to consider research and utilize CDC Guidance and state and local health requirements to develop a practical guidance tool to assist school districts in reopening in the fall of 2020 and 2021. Schools are continuing to operate using the structures developed in the Smart Start Guidance, including CDC guidance, and state and local health requirements.
Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The WDE will award some ARP ESSER funds through competitive district grants titled “Addressing Gaps and Accelerated Learning.” Districts will select evidence-based interventions consistent with student needs and specific focus areas, including kindergarten readiness, computer science, postsecondary partnerships, postsecondary transition programming, and content specific professional development. Additionally, interventions will include Tribal or Wind River Reservation district partnerships. Grant applications will open immediately with anticipated award notification no later than Dec. 15, 2021.
Staffing to Support Students’ Needs: With ARP ESSER funds, the WDE has funded a State School Nurse position to provide assistance to districts on implementation of state and local health orders. Additionally, the WDE will use ARP ESSER funds to add necessary staff in districts including highly-qualified interventionists and tutors, counselors, school psychologists, and paraprofessionals. Funds will be made available immediately to support LEAs and activities identified in the ARP state plan.
All 52 State Education Agencies 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 re-engage 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:
Held the Return To School Road Trip, a bus tour that visited schools across five states in five days to celebrate the safe return to school.
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.
Hosted a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
Announced a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have been financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as universal indoor masking.
Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff, and childcare workers.
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.