Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Virginia’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Virginia’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. Virginia is receiving $2.1 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $704 million. Additionally, the Department approved state plans from Maryland and Nebraska. Today’s approvals mean a total of 44 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Virginia’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.”
“With Virginia’s students back in classrooms, our schools are eager to implement the resources available in the Commonwealth’s now-approved ARP state plan and put them to work to address unfinished learning,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “These additional federal relief funds will support a wide array of state and local initiatives, ranging from instructional supports focused on literacy and math, to maintaining safe environments for in-person instruction, to providing mental health resources to help our students recover from the pandemic, to recruiting, retaining and supporting our teachers.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption in our schools, and students have suffered as a result,” said Sen. Mark Warner. “As students head back to school, I am happy to see that Virginia’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief plan has been approved by the Department of Education. These American Rescue Plan funds will provide our educators with the resources they need to help our schools and communities stay safe and recover.”
“I’m pleased to see federal funding from the American Rescue Plan go toward helping equip Virginia schools with vital resources to address the impacts of the pandemic on students’ learning,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. “These federal dollars will bolster our schools’ innovative strategies to help students catch up and safely learn in person. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, I will continue working to support schools across the Commonwealth to ensure that our future leaders have the tools they need to reach their full potential.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Virginia’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:
- Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021: Virginia legislation requires all Virginia public schools to open for all students in-person for the 2021-2022 school year. The only exceptions are temporary building-level closures required by the local health department to contain an outbreak of COVID-19.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will use some ARP ESSER funding for competitive grants to school districts, grants and agreements with institutions of higher education, and other state-led initiatives. Districts may use these funds to provide support for students, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; to address academic, social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs; to reduce class size; to hire tutors and paraprofessionals; to provide literacy and numeracy kits to families; to purchase instructional resources; and for professional development opportunities. Institutions of higher education will participate in initiatives including creating tutoring programs and training educators and community partners.
- Instructional Staffing to Support Students’ Needs: VDOE is using $11.5 million in ARP ESSER funding to support recruitment efforts for school districts to fill instructional positions between August and November 2021. School districts experiencing the most acute difficulties in recruiting qualified teachers will receive funding priority.
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.