The Biden Administration has taken decisive action to support the safe reopening of schools for in-person instruction and to address the pandemic’s disparate impact on students of color and other underserved students. As families across the country eagerly anticipate a return to school, the Administration is determined to ensure that our schools and students not only recover from the pandemic, but that we Build Back Better for the future.
Vaccination is our leading strategy to end the pandemic, and—combined with the layered mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC—has the greatest potential to allow schools to reopen fully this fall and stay open for in-person learning. That’s why, in March the President prioritized teachers and school staff for access to the COVID vaccine. As a result, almost 90 percent of educators and school staff are now vaccinated. To get more of our students ages 12 and older vaccinated, the President is now calling on school districts nationwide to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks and directing pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to prioritize this and to work with school districts across the country to host vaccination clinics at schools and colleges.
Ensuring funds address the needs of students.Districts and states must spend a combined minimum of 25 percent of the state’s total ARP ESSER funds, totaling nearly $30.5 billion, to address the impact of lost instructional time through summer learning or enrichment, extended day instruction, comprehensive afterschool programs, or other evidence-based practices. Funded strategies must also respond to students’ social and emotional needs and account for the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on underserved students. The Administration recognizes that the communities that support our students have a critical understanding of what their students need and are key to ensuring funds have the greatest impact on students. As they put together their plans for the use of funds, states and school districts are required to engage a wide range of stakeholders during the planning process, including educators, school leaders and staff, students, families, civil rights organizations, and stakeholders representing the interests of students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, migratory students, students who are incarcerated and other underserved students.
Protecting high-poverty districts from funding cuts. The American Rescue Plan’s ARP ESSER program includes a first-of-its-kind maintenance of equity requirement to ensure that high-poverty school districts and schools are protected in the event of funding cuts. These requirements will ensure that school districts and schools serving a large share of students from low-income backgrounds will not experience disproportionate budget cuts—and that the school districts with the highest poverty levels do not experience any decrease in state per-pupil funding below their pre-pandemic level.
Ensuring states continue to fund education. The Department has emphasized the importance of the American Rescue Plan’s maintenance of effort requirement, which ensures that states continue to fulfill their commitments to fund their education systems, and has worked with states to ensure that they meet these requirements. The maintenance of effort requirement helps protect students by making sure that federal pandemic relief funds are used to meet the immediate needs and impacts of the pandemic on students and schools to the greatest extent possible, rather than to supplant general state funding for K-12 education.
Stabilizing and ensuring access to child care.High-quality early care and education helps ensure that children can take full advantage of education and training opportunities later in life. The pandemic significantly disrupted the child care sector, threatening access to this critical support and threatening economic security for childcare workers, who are disproportionately women of color. The American Rescue Plan invested $24 billion in stabilizing the child care sector, and is helping to provide this essential industry—which provides vital opportunities for children—with more flexible funding to help more low-income working families access high-quality care, increase compensation for early childhood workers, and help parents to work. Addressing the needs of students experiencing homelessness. The pandemic increased housing insecurity, and disproportionately impacted the education of students experiencing homelessness, who were less likely to be able to successfully engage in remote learning due to lack of reliable access to the internet. The Department of Education has released all $800 million in American Rescue Plan funds for identifying and addressing the needs of students experiencing homelessness, including by providing wraparound services and support ranging from afterschool to mental health services. Supporting students with disabilities.The pandemic created serious challenges for many students with disabilities, who struggled to access special education and related services according to their individualized services plan. The American Rescue Plan provides support to students with disabilities and infants and toddlers with disabilities through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. To ensure states can deliver the necessary services and supports to young children and youth with disabilities, the American Rescue Plan devotes nearly $2.6 billion in grants to states to support elementary and secondary education students with disabilities, $200 million for preschool children with disabilities, and $250 million for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
Bolstering Tribal education. The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is using $535 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support 183 BIE-funded K-12 schools, providing much-needed financial support to help Tribal communities recover more quickly from the pandemic’s wide-ranging impact.
Funding COVID testing. The American Rescue Plan includes $10 billion to support COVID-19 testing in schools. This funding will help to reopen schools, including in communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Supporting nutrition security. It is hard for students to learn successfully when they are experiencing hunger. Black and Latino households face food insecurity at twice the rate of white households. The American Rescue Plan guards against food hardship among students this summer by allowing states to continue the Pandemic-EBT program, which provides grocery benefits to replace meals for students who are eligible for free and reduced priced meals when schools are closed. It also increases SNAP benefits by 15 percent through September 2021, maintaining the increase through the summer, when childhood hunger spikes due to a lack of school meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture likewise acted to offer flexibility for the 2021-2022 school year by providing waivers that allow schools to serve free meals to all students.
Like Newport Buzz? We depend on the generosity of readers like you who support us, to help with our mission to keep you informed and entertained with local, independent news and content. We truly appreciate your trust and support!