U.S. Department of Education Approves Minnesota’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $441 Million to State

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U.S. Department of Education Approves Minnesota’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students, Distributes Remaining $441 Million to State

August 30, 2021

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Minnesota’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Minnesota’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 begin the new school year, 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. Minnesota is receiving $1.3 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $441 million. Last week, the Department approved plans for Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, and Louisiana. Today’s approval means a total of 33 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 for Minnesota’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 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.” 

“Minnesota’s plan to help students and families recover from the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic focuses on evidence-based practices in academics, mental health, and school-community partnerships that have impacts both in the classroom and beyond the school day,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller. “The American Rescue Plan funds will support our state’s COVID recovery efforts to ensure we meet the unique needs of our students and school communities, and build our capacity for long-term improvements.”

“As students head back to school in-person this fall, we must have the protocols and resources in place to support safe learning,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “The distribution of this funding will help that effort by providing key services to address learning loss and protect the health and safety of students and educators as we continue fighting this pandemic.”

“Our students and educators have faced significant challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m pleased that Democrats in Congress and the Biden Administration responded with unprecedented resources within the American Rescue Plan,” said Rep. Betty McCollum. “The Department of Education’s approval of Minnesota’s plan will get these funds into our schools to ensure the safety of our students, educators, and school staff this fall. The American Rescue Plan continues to deliver for Minnesota schools, families, and communities.”

“As we worked to design and pass the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, one of my top priorities was ensuring that we provided our local school districts with the resources necessary to safely reopen and get our children back in the classroom,” said Rep. Angie Craig. “I couldn’t be prouder about the disbursal of these funds, which will help our local leaders to prioritize the health of our teachers, the wellbeing of our students and the quality of our education for years to come.”

The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department, including Minnesota, 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: Minnesota has developed and promoted the Roll Up Your Sleeves campaign to increase vaccination rates, which includes targeted outreach to 12–17-year-olds. Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is promoting the Vaccine Connector, which allows Minnesotans to find vaccination clinics near them. MDE is connecting local public health departments and school districts and charter schools to provide onsite school vaccination clinics for students, staff, and community members.

Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: MDE will award ARP ESSER funds to districts and charters to address the academic impact of lost instructional time. Districts and charters will be required to select and implement evidence-based practices focused on the needs of historically underserved students, including those who have missed the most in-person instruction and who did not consistently participate in remote instruction. Priority areas for the use of funding include tutoring, expanding access to community schools that provide wraparound services, early learning, and increasing student support personnel such as school counselors and school nurses.

Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: MDE will award ARP ESSER funds for summer learning and enrichment programs to community organizations, with an emphasis on community-based organizations that have experience working with student populations that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including students from low-income families; Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, Asian, and Black students; English learners; students with disabilities; migratory students; students in foster care; and neglected, delinquent, and incarcerated students. MDE will also award funds for evidence-based comprehensive afterschool programs to community organizations through Ignite Afterschool, which is Minnesota's affiliate of the National Afterschool Association.

Staffing to Support Students' Needs: Minnesota will use ARP ESSER funds to support districts and charters in hiring licensed school counselors, school nurses, school social workers, school psychologists, and alcohol and chemical dependency counselors to help provide early responses to support students' social-emotional and mental health.

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 also is 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:

  • 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
  • Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit/li>
  • 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.