The American public education system is notoriously underfunded in most cases, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed more gaps in the budget. On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) was signed by President Biden to offer support to American businesses, citizens, and others who felt the impact of the virus in a negative way. Let’s take a closer look at how the ARP has boosted the education system.
What the American Rescue Plan is
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is a government initiative that was developed to help the United States recover from the economic impact of the virus. It was a $1.9 trillion package that included funding for schools to support teachers and students. The U.S. Department of Education distributed $122 billion to every American state education agency (SEA), including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, through the Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER). This occurred on January 18, 2022.
The goal of the ARP
While the plan was multifaceted and had many individual goals, the education support that it was created to provide had its own strategy. According to the January press release, the funds had a few different purposes. Some of them include:
- Keep schools open for learning.
- Respond to challenges posed by the Omicron variant.
- Provide screening, testing, and test-to-stay programs.
- Equip schools with guidance and resources to meet the changing needs of students.
- Address labor shortages and inequities exacerbated by COVID-19.
- Expand access to vaccinations.
- Update school infrastructure and ventilation systems.
- Support students experiencing homelessness and those with disabilities.
The needs of each individual school district can vary because of the wide range of challenges that the area it is located near faces.
The current results
Time will tell how well the ARP worked to support students in the long term, but there are ways to measure its short-term success. Again, results will vary depending on location. For each plan to work well, it requires help from the community, including parents, families, and other community members. We will look at a few examples of what school districts have done with their allocated funding.
- Los Angeles Unified School District: bought 55,000 air scrubbers.
- Hawaii Department of Education: hosted 45 vaccination clinics.
- Harnett School District in North Carolina: increased instructional space for five schools.
- Arkansas: created the Arkansas Tutoring Corps.
- Dayton, Ohio: hired two times as many teachers in classrooms for grades 1-3.
Across the country, school districts used the money to address its unique needs and will continue to do as it is distributed. Strategies will likely change as the threats continue to evolve. In addition to the support provided by the ARP, funding was also set aside by the Build Back Better Agenda.