04 March 2021

What the American Rescue Plan means for K-12

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a comprehensive COVID-19 economic relief package. Subtitle A of Title II of the ARP includes proposed funding relief as it relates to education.  The ARP provides about $170 billion in relief for elementary, secondary, and higher education, with approximately $128.6 billion specifically for K-12 schools.  This funding would be available until September 20, 2023.

States that receive this funding are expected to create “sub-grants” using at least 90% of the received funds, allocating them to local educational agencies (LEAs).  At least 5% of the funding must be used directly or through grants and contracts, towards activities that aim to address lost learning through the implementation of interventions like summer learning, extended day afterschool programming or extended school year programs.  States are to ensure these activities and interventions respond to the academic, social, and emotional needs of students, while addressing the disproportionate impact on low-income and minority student populations as outlined in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. [1]

School districts receiving these sub-grants are expected to reserve at least 20% of funding to address learning loss through evidence-based interventions such as those listed above and any other interventions that will address student needs.  Further, LEAs are to provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools in the same manner as provided under section 1117 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. [2]

As a condition of receiving ARP relief, states must maintain support for education (both in K-12 and post-secondary) in the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years at least at the proportional level of support that was provided for K-12 and higher education relative to the state’s overall spending pre-pandemic, which would be an average over the 2017, 2018, and 2019 fiscal years.

Further, under Section 2003, as a condition for receiving these funds, state educational agencies are barred from reducing state funding in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 for any high-poverty LEA or school district by an amount that will exceed the overall per-pupil reduction in state funds.  Another condition is that states cannot reduce funding to school districts that are part of the 20% of districts in the state with the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

Lastly, LEAs, as a condition of receiving funds, must not reduce per-pupil funding in 2022 or 2023 for any high-poverty school that exceeds the total reduction in LEA funding for all schools in the LEA, divided by the number of children enrolled in all schools within the LEA.  LEAs are also barred from reducing per-pupil, full-time equivalent staff in any high-poverty school by an amount that exceeds the total reduction in full-time equivalent staff in all schools in the LEA divided by the number of students enrolled in all schools in the LEA.

Section 2004 of the ARP provides that $850 million will remain available in fiscal year 2021 for the Secretary of Education to allocate to outlying areas based on needs, which are to be divvied up no later than 30 days after the enactment of the ARP.

The funding proposed in the ARP can be used by districts for any activities that will address student needs and foregone learning.  Such activities could include funding for upgraded technology access, offering counseling to students, creating smaller class sizes, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff PPE training, covering costs for transportation, additional sanitization and ventilation improvement costs, as well as other expenses associated with creating a school environment that is compliant, safe, and supportive.

Addressing learning loss is paramount, while keeping staff and students safe.  It is important to recognize the heightened and disproportionately disadvantaged populations, including students living in poverty, those students learning English or learning with a disability, as well as those who may be in foster care or are experiencing homelessness.

The ARP is now before the Senate for further approval, which is predicted to occur in the coming days.

[1] Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(ii), (20 U.S.C. 6311(h)(1)(C)(ii)).

[2] Section 1117 (20 U.S.C. 6320). This section pertains to children enrolled in private schools.