Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Nebraska’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Nebraska’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 students and states return to school, 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. Nebraska is receiving $546 million total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $182 million. Additionally, the Department approved state plans from Maryland and Virginia. Today’s approvals mean a total of 44 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Nebraska’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 enter 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.”
“Nebraska schools have taken a lead in pandemic response from the very beginning, working tirelessly to find ways to keep students in the classroom,” said Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt. “Our schools will continue to lead by using the latest funds to support students by addressing unfinished learning and boosting learning acceleration. We have the unique opportunity to provide schools and students the supports and community partnerships they need to be their very best.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Nebraska’s, 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: The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) will continue to implement its Do Right, Right Now campaign, a statewide effort to promote the continued need for safety, masking, vaccinations, and mental health. NDE is also working on a project with a local medical group to promote the safety of vaccines in children.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: NDE will pursue evidence-based interventions that support the state plan priorities described above: supporting student and staff social-emotional wellbeing and mental health; reimagining family and community engagement; investing in teacher professional development, upskilling, and the teacher and leader pipeline; and ensuring students have equitable access to grade-level instruction to address unfinished learning and support learning acceleration.
- Investing in Expanded Afterschool Programs: NDE is partnering with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation to implement evidence-based enrichment activities. NDE will select sites for funding that have been impacted the most by the COVID-19 pandemic and are most in need. Identified schools include sites with current 21st Century Community Learning Center grants or other expanded learning programs. The identification process also prioritizes middle and high school settings.
The distribution of ARP ESSER funds is part of the Department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to re-engage 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:
- Held the Return To School Road Trip, a bus tour that visited schools across five states in five days to celebrate the safe return to school.
- 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.
- Hosted a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
- Announced a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have been financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as universal indoor masking.
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff, and childcare workers.
- 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.