U.S. Department of Education Approves Arizona’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $862 Million to State

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U.S. Department of Education Approves Arizona’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $862 Million to State

October 7, 2021

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Arizona’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them.

Arizona’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. The Department continues to encourage all states and school districts to follow CDC guidance to protect students, educators, and support staff from COVID-19. Today’s approval will ensure funds are available to the state and local districts to safely support and maintain in-person instructions. The Department will continue to closely review and monitor whether Arizona is meeting all of its federal fiscal requirements for ESSER funds.

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. Arizona is receiving $2.5 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $862 million. Additionally, the Department approved Missouri’s state plan. Today’s approvals mean a total of 39 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.

“I am excited to announce approval of Arizona’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.”

“With our state’s approved ARP ESSER plan, we are ready to continue providing significant recovery resources to our public education system. This plan provides a recovery roadmap for our public schools and the students they serve by prioritizing support for student mental health, academic enrichment, and reinforcements for accelerating learning,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. “I am grateful for the input and expertise of the broad group of educators, school leaders, and community stakeholders who helped inform the plan. Working together to support the needs of our students must be our sole focus in the years ahead, and I am optimistic about what we can accomplish together as a state in support of our students’ futures.”

“Arizona students, educators, and families have faced immense challenges over the past year and a half as we’ve navigated the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Mark Kelly. “With students back in the classroom, it is critical that schools receive the resources they need to support students. That’s why I voted to pass the American Rescue Plan back in March, and with the approval of Arizona’s plan today, we can continue working toward recovery, re-engagement, and learning reinforcement for Arizona’s students.”

“Students in Arizona have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, both inside and outside the classroom,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego. “Almost immediately after taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration swiftly moved to provide students the resources needed to overcome the obstacles of the past 19 months, and I’m glad to see the Department of Education approve Arizona’s plan to get these American Rescue Plan funds into classrooms.”

The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Arizona’s, 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:

  • Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021: Arizona schools have returned to in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. Arizona Department of Education (ADE) launched the Ready for School campaign, which ran from June 2021 through September 2021, to encourage students and families to re-enroll in their public schools. The campaign used videos and advertisements to highlight the benefits of in-person instruction. ADE also created a hotline to support parents through the re-enrollment process.
  • Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time and Expanding Summer and Afterschool Programs: ADE will implement evidence-based interventions that focus on three priorities: enrichment and reinforcement of learning; mental, behavioral, and physical health support for students and educators; and student and family re-engagement and support.
  • Supporting the Educator Workforce: ADE has partnered with the state’s three universities and has created a dedicated Educator Recruitment and Retention team to support schools with recruitment, retention, and professional development strategies in partnership with local communities. This team also has developed and implemented Principal and Supervisor of Principal professional learning academies to build leadership capacity in school districts and charter schools to provide support for students and educators.

Separately this week, the Treasury Department notified the Governor of Arizona that it was concerned that two of the state-run grant programs using Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and are not a permissible use of funds.

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 child care workers.
  • 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.