On Friday, Aug. 27, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Louisiana’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Louisiana’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. Louisiana is receiving $2.6 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $870 million. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Alaska, Connecticut, and Illinois. Today’s approvals mean a total of 32 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 of Louisiana’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 move into the summer and 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.”
“Our goal is to aggressively and transparently direct ESSER resources toward statewide investments that will recover and accelerate student learning,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. “I’m excited to see the tremendous progress our students will make by school systems collectively focusing their funds, time, and effort into areas that bolster student achievement.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense hardship for students, but in cooperation with the Biden-Harris Administration, Congress has stepped up with unprecedented resources from the American Rescue Plan to support our schools and invest in our students,” said Rep. Troy Carter. “I am glad to see the Department of Education provide over $870 million more in funding for students in Louisiana. These resources will help get us safely back to school this fall and address the learning loss and the social and emotional toll that the last year took on students, educators, and our communities.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Louisiana, 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:
- Supporting Students Most Impacted by the Pandemic: The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) requires Louisiana school systems to develop plans that focus on addressing interrupted instruction for underserved students, including students living in deep poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care. LDOE has provided guidance to school systems on analyzing data to determine students’ current needs. School systems have updated reopening plans in preparation for the 2021-2022 school year that are focused on in-person instruction.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: LDOE will allocate ARP ESSER funds reserved for addressing the impact of lost instructional time to school systems through a discretionary grant process that prioritizes students most impacted by the pandemic. The state’s plan emphasizes accelerating learning—which connects unfinished instruction to new learning rather than remediation—and includes tutoring in reading and math.
- Expanding Summer Learning and Enrichment Opportunities: LDOE intends to award incentive funds to support school systems in implementing summer learning programs that include tutoring and community service opportunities. The summer learning programs will prioritize students most impacted by the pandemic.
- Expanding Afterschool Programs: LDOE intends to award incentive funds to support school systems in implementing comprehensive afterschool programs that include elective opportunities, tutoring, and mentorship. These programs will rebuild strong relationships with students and families through mentoring, assisting students’ transition back to in-person learning, addressing gaps in learning through one-on-one or small group focused instruction, and engaging students in enrichment activities to foster meaningful experiences.
- Focusing on Early Literacy: LDOE will allocate ARP ESSER funds to provide literacy screeners to school systems. The state also will use ARP ESSER funds to support Louisiana’s Science of Reading initiative to improve literacy and decrease the number of students “at risk” for reading difficulties.
- Strengthening the Educator Pipeline: LDOE will invest ARP ESSER funds to strengthen the educator pipeline through key initiatives: providing new teacher supports to increase retention; expanding pre-educator pathways to build a cadre of aspiring teachers; and increasing the number of content leaders who are local educators with the knowledge, skills, and concrete resources to provide high-quality, content-rich, and curriculum-specific professional development to new and current teachers in their districts.
- Emphasizing Student Engagement: LDOE is using ARP ESSER funds to create a new state-level leadership role in the Office of College and Career Readiness to lead state-level efforts to identify and re-engage students who have missed significant amounts of school during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. This position also will serve as the subject matter authority on child welfare and attendance programs, and develop and manage cross-agency initiatives. LDOE is also partnering with Louisiana State University to re-engage students who have missed in-person instruction or have been disengaged in remote instruction.
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
- 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.