President Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, providing more funding relief for K-12 education than the previous CARES and CRRSA Acts combined.
$122.8 billion has been added to the ESSER fund for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, with new spending requirements for districts and schools with high percentages of students living in poverty.
As we did in April 2020 for the CARES Act, and in February 2021 for the CRRSA Act, team members at MIND Research Institute have summarized the funding opportunities available for K-12 education under the American Rescue Plan below.
ESSER Funding Breakdown for K-12
The ESSER fund was first established as part of the CARES Act in April 2020, with additional funds added to ESSER II under the CRRSA Act. Unique to the provisions of the American Rescue Plan, local education agencies (LEAs) must reserve not less than 20% of the funds to address learning loss. The bill specifically cites the need for evidence-based interventions that respond to student academic, social, and emotional needs.
Beyond the 20% that must address learning loss, the remaining ESSER funds may be used to:
Provide online learning technology for all students;
Purchase edtech hardware, software, and/or connectivity that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and instructors;
Provide online summer learning; and,
Administer high-quality, valid, and reliable assessments.
What about Funds for Governors, GEER?
The American Rescue Plan does not allocate funds to the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER and GEER II), which had been included in the prior packages. Instead, governors will be afforded discretion in allocating those ESSER funds that are not subgranted to LEAs.
In addition, governors have access to a fund of $2.75 billion under the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools Program. This is intended to provide services or assistance to non-public schools that enroll a significant percentage of low-income students and are most impacted.
Additional IDEA Funding
Further funding has also been appropriated in support of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including $2.58 billion for grants to states under IDEA part B. Generally speaking, IDEA funding may be used to provide special education services, early intervention, and RTI, or response to intervention.
The Plan adds novel requirements for LEAs and state education agencies (SEAs) that are aimed at protecting funding levels for districts and schools that have high percentages of students living in poverty. For example, SEAs cannot reduce per-student funding in said districts by more than statewide per-student reductions. And LEAs cannot reduce funding or staffing per student in schools with high rates of students living in poverty by more than district-wide funding or staffing reductions.
E-Rate and Connectivity
The Plan also establishes an Emergency Connectivity Fund with $7 billion for E-rate support, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expected to reimburse 100% of the amount of the costs associated with eligible equipment, including wi-fi hotspots, modems, routers, connected devices, and more. E-rate – more formally known as the Schools and Libraries Program – provides discounts to assist eligible schools and libraries to obtain affordable internet access and telecommunications services.
Liz Neiman is Vice President of Engagement at MIND, leading the marketing team's plans and activities to promote MIND's initiatives and impact. Besides education and gaming, her interests include music of all kinds (from musical theater to heavy metal), cooking and baking, and fashion. Follow her on Twitter @lizneiman.