U.S Department of Education, National Comprehensive Center Release Latest Tool to Support Effective Use of American Rescue Plan Funds

Today, the U.S. Department of Education and its technical assistance partner the National Comprehensive Center released a new resource to help states share their progress deploying the $122 billion American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds. These funds support safe in-person instruction, address the effects of lost instructional time due to COVID-19, and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students.

The ARP Partnership, Assistance, Transformation, and Heightened Support (ARP PATHS) tool invites states to describe the strategies they are implementing that could serve as promising practices for other states and the nation in ensuring that ARP ESSER funds are used appropriately and effectively as intended by the law.

“Through ARP PATHS, states and districts will be able to more effectively and transparently communicate their efforts and share promising practices so that, across the country, we can do more of what works to ensure that our students, schools, and educators thrive,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

ARP PATHS includes a number of considerations for states as they build capacity and communicate their work to districts and the public. The tool includes six sections that are based on the ARP ESSER state plan application that all states have submitted, and the Department has approved. For each section, states can indicate the implementation status, describe their states’ progress, and outline promising practices or impact.

These include topics such as implementing strategies to support safe in-person instruction, incorporating ongoing engagement with parents and other stakeholders, addressing learning loss, meeting urgent staffing needs, and ensuring transparency.

“Since the start of the pandemic, Democrats have worked to put our kids first—that’s why we passed the American Rescue Plan to provide the schools the resources they need to stay open safely, provide mental health resources, and address learning loss to get our kids back on track after an incredibly tough two years,” said Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). “And as the Omicron surge continues, schools continue facing huge challenges—from buying masks to dealing with staff shortages—and it’s key they use these resources quickly and carefully to meet their communities’ urgent needs. I’m monitoring closely to make sure that happens, so I’m glad this new tool will boost transparency and help schools across the country share their progress and keep kids in school safely.”

“In response to biggest economic and health crisis our country has ever faced, President Biden and Congressional Democrats took decisive action through the American Rescue Plan to provide essential resources for K-12 schools to safely reopen and address the pandemic’s impact on students’ academic, mental health, social, and emotional needs,” said Rep. Rosa Delauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “I applaud the courageous, essential efforts by educators, school leaders, and district leaders to use these flexible ARP funds to address these urgent challenges.”

“States and districts are making historic investments in educational systems using the ARP stimulus funds,” said Allison Crean Davis, director of the National Comprehensive Center. “The National Comprehensive Center, in our role partnering with educational leaders and organizations throughout the nation, is looking forward to working with the Department to build upon the ARP PATHS tool with associated resources and supports to help states understand how these investments are improving outcomes for school systems and our nation’s students.”

The Department is working with states to ensure proper and prompt allocation of federal dollars. As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Department required state and local education agencies to create plans for how they would spend their ARP ESSER funds. All states received the initial two-thirds of their allocations in March of last year. To ensure proper stakeholder engagement and planning, states received the remaining one-third of ARP ESSER funds after an individual state plan was approved. As of December 2021, all 50 states the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico received approval of their state plans and their full awards. Links to state and local education agency plans are available here.

American Rescue Plan dollars are already being used across the country to address immediate needs, such as staff shortages, and supporting students’ mental health, as well as long-term goals like hiring school counselors. The ARP PATHS tool will help elevate and track those efforts.

Examples of ARP’s impact include:

  • The Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) is partnering with other statewide agencies to vaccinate all Vermonters, including eligible students. AOE will use $1 million in ARP ESSER funds to support a Vaccine Incentive Program that will make awards to schools that achieve a student vaccination rate of 85% or higher. Vermont has achieved a high rate of vaccination for eligible student populations by targeting vaccine clinics to school sites, a sustained interagency public information campaign, and through the leadership and support of school administrators and staff. As of Jan. 14, 75% of Vermont residents aged 12-17 had received at least one dose of vaccine. To build on this success, beginning in 2022, additional funds through the Vaccine Incentive Program will further encourage vaccination for all Vermont students.
  • Wake County Schools in North Carolina provided $3,750 in bonuses for full-time employees to support keeping schools open.
  • Gaston County Schools in North Carolina was able to secure a nurse for all of their 54 school locations. In past years, nurses split their time between two buildings.
  • White Plains City Schools are using their ARP to invest in HVAC units, support the mental health of their teachers, and make sure student learning is not disrupted.
  • Tennessee is using ARP ESSER funds to provide access to intensive, low-ratio tutoring over the next three years. When the program is fully operational, as many as 240,000 students will have access to 300-500 additional hours of targeted support through tutoring to address the lost instructional time from the pandemic.
  • Using American Rescue Plan funds, Arkansas created the Arkansas Tutoring Corps, which includes recruitment, preparation, and support for candidates to become qualified tutors to provide instruction or intervention to meet the academic needs of at-risk learners or students most impacted by lost instructional time. The Arkansas Tutoring Corps project will enhance learning experiences of students impacted by lost instructional time as a result of the pandemic and address gaps in foundational skills in mathematics and literacy.
  • Kearsarge Regional School District in New Hampshire is using ARP funds to install air conditioning in their middle school which will allow them to increase summer programing.
  • Dayton, Ohio is using ARP ESSER funds to hire two times as many teachers in classrooms for grades 1-3 and pursue other interventions such as math specialists for grades 4-6 to help students catch up more quickly.

ARP PATHS is part of the Department’s overall strategy to support the successful implementation of federal pandemic recovery funds, including ongoing technical assistance; communications; guidance; reporting; formal monitoring, including targeted, comprehensive, and consolidated monitoring protocols; and outreach to parents, educators, and other stakeholders. The Department conducts ongoing monitoring of states, and states are required to approve ARP ESSER spending plans and monitor the use of funds of their school districts.

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