U.S. Department of Education Approves California’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $5 Billion to State

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U.S. Department of Education Approves California’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $5 Billion to State

November 4, 2021

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of California’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. California’s plan details how the state is using and plans to use ARP ESSER funds to 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. California is receiving $15 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $5 billion. Additionally, the Department approved Colorado’s state plan. Today’s approvals mean a total of 46 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.

“I am excited to announce approval of California’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. The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to help keep schools open 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.”

“Nothing is more important than addressing the mental health needs of our students and supporting our school communities with recovery and acceleration of learning as we emerge from the pandemic,” stated State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “We are grateful for the significant educational investments in COVID relief that have been made possible by strong leadership and solid partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the California State Board of Education, the California Department of Public Health, the California Legislature, the Governor’s office and others, including educators, families, and students who have come together to help us to ensure that these critical dollars will be used to best meet the needs of schools.”

“We deeply appreciate the federal government’s substantial investment in California schools and thank the U.S. Department of Education for affirming our commitment to the safety, health, well-being and academic success of our students now and in years to come,” said State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond. “We are proud that our plan was developed collaboratively with extensive input from education partners across the state, including Gov. Newsom’s administration, the California Department of Education, the state Legislature, teachers, administrators and equity advocates. This united front will help us meet the challenge of accelerating learning and supporting all students as we move forward.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant setbacks for California schools, but thanks to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding in the American Rescue Plan, students will soon be able to receive the support and resources they need to confront potential learning loss and thrive in an environment that prioritizes their success,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “As a former public-school teacher for 24 years, I know how important a quality education is, and I’m thrilled that the Biden-Harris Administration worked with Congress to secure funding to provide mental health services, repair facilities, purchase technology to bridge the digital divide, and better respond to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I am hopeful that we are now on the right track to address the challenges of the past several months.”

The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including California’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: By statute, all schools are required to offer in-person instruction in 2021-22. This fall, the vast majority of districts are serving 95-100% of students in-person, and nearly 98% of schools are expanding mental health, after-school and tutoring programs.<
  • Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: In California, there have been more than 3,100 school-located clinics representing over 2 million students. Another 800 clinics are planned for November and December representing over 450,000 students. Additionally, the state has brokered partnerships with after-school programs to hold 84 pop-up clinics across the state and has worked with pediatricians to make sure providers have vaccines on hand. To assist in educating and engaging the public, California has worked to create communications toolkits for schools and youth. The Vaccinate 58 campaign is working to keep the public informed on ongoing vaccination efforts and information. The California Department of Education (CDE), in partnership with the California Department of Public Health, maintains the Shots for Schools website to provide resources for school-located vaccination against COVID-19. This website prominently features information on how to offer vaccinations for students and how districts can become providers to disseminate vaccines and partner with pharmacies to hold “pop-up” vaccination events.
  • Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The CDE will use ARP ESSER funds to support an Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) grant program. ELO grants will provide resources for students, including students most impacted by the pandemic, including additional instructional time, tutoring, mental health services, creation of community learning hubs, and additional support for students who do not have enough credits for grade promotion or graduation.

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.
  • Announced new mental health resources to provide information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students.
  • 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. The Build Back Better agenda will offer universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, make education beyond high school more affordable—including offering more trainings and apprenticeships, increasing the maximum Pell Grants, expanding access to DREAMers, and making historic investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and minority-serving institutions, among other provisions.