Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of Missouri’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Missouri’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. Missouri is receiving $1.9 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $654 million. Additionally, the Department approved Arizona’s state plan. Today’s approvals mean a total of 39 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June.
“I am excited to announce approval of Missouri’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.”
“We’re pleased to have our state plan approved so we can continue the work of supporting schools, educators, families, and students throughout the pandemic,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “Missouri teachers and leaders have worked hard throughout the last 18 months to provide students and families both the academic and personal supports they need. These additional funds mean local education agencies can continue that important, timely work.”
“As students, parents, and teachers across the country were faced with the unprecedented challenge of conducting school during a global pandemic, President Biden and Democrats in Congress came together this year to pass the American Rescue Plan with historic relief for our nation’s public schools,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “With the Department of Education’s approval of Missouri’s plan, our state will now have federal resources needed to not only address the learning loss and emotional turbulence students have been burdened with since March of 2020, but to build back better than before by making substantial investments to reduce the digital divide and shore up our educator workforce. This is a critical step in helping our students, teachers, and communities recover from the pandemic, and I couldn’t be prouder to have supported the American Rescue Plan, which made these opportunities possible.”
“For over a year, St. Louis schools have grappled with a devastating pandemic that has disrupted critical learning opportunities for our students. We must work to ensure the needs of students, teachers, support staff, and parents are met for the duration of this public health emergency and long after it ends,” said Rep. Cori Bush. “The American Rescue Plan has delivered billions of dollars in investments to aid our district’s recovery. The Department of Education’s approval of Missouri’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief plan is a welcomed endeavor as Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration work to address the harms of this ongoing crisis. This $1.96 billion in essential resources will undoubtedly help our schools invest in strong mitigation efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, assist in new hiring opportunities for educators, and allow us to better meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of our students.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Missouri’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 Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MO DESE) has promoted statewide vaccination events and has collaborated with the state health agency to offer school districts a wide variety of options for COVID-19 screening testing for the 2021-2022 school year. MO DESE continues to share vaccine-related information with stakeholders and encourage local school leaders to consider vaccination of eligible students and staff as a key mitigation strategy. MO DESE continues to work with state health officials to update school reopening and operating guidance as needed.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: Pending General Assembly spending authority, MO DESE will implement its intervention plans to leverage ARP ESSER funds. MO DESE intends to launch the state’s literacy initiative to ensure all children can read by the end of second grade. MO DESE also will invest in a competency-based learning pilot to reach students who have fallen behind. These efforts will be further supported by content experts who will provide added professional development opportunities to educators through the state’s nine Regional Professional Development Centers. In addition, MO DESE plans to use funds to expand access to broadband.
- Supporting the Educator Workforce: MO DESE will offer both teacher recruitment retention grants to all local education agencies (LEAs). The application process will include a review of local data on teacher turnover as well as strategies the LEA will implement to address their shortage areas. The grant allocation process provides additional funds to those LEAs with harder to fill positions, such as LEAs serving higher numbers of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. ARP ESSER funds will be used to support research-based strategies, including, but not limited to: strengthening the mentor program for early career teachers, utilizing culture and climate surveys to determine and address working condition issues, and providing services that address the social-emotional needs of teachers.
All 52 State Education Agencies 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 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 child care workers.
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for pre-K-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.
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