ARP: The ESSER Fund and How it Can Address Learning Loss in K-12
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American Rescue Plan: The ESSER Fund and How it Can Address Learning Loss and Recovery in K-12

  • 2 Min Read

In March 2021, the US Federal Government passed a third stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan (ARP), to support individuals, businesses, and the education system. The $1.9 trillion package included the largest injection of stimulus support to date for the K-12 education sector – nearly $130 billion.

What’s in the American Rescue Plan?

The ARP’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund alone provides nearly $123B for K-12 public schools and states, including:

  • $110B for grants to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs)
  • $8.5B for State Educational Agency (SEA) programs for learning recovery and summer learning

The local educational agency funding under ARP ESSER will be distributed using the ESEA Title I-A formula; the same method as the CARES Act and CRRSA ESSER funds.

In general, for every $1 in ESSER funds that districts received under the original CARES Act, they will receive about another $9 under ARP ESSER.

Schools and states have until September 30, 2024 to allocate the ARP ESSER funds.

Learning Loss in ARP

Unlike the ESSER programs under the CARES Act and CRRSA, the ARP ESSER includes some specific requirements to help schools begin the process of addressing learning recovery. ARP ESSER mandates that a minimum of nearly 25% – $28 billion – of funding be used to address learning loss:

  • SEAs must reserve at least 5% of the total state allotment
  • LEAs must use at least 20% of their district allotment

This set-aside reflects the significant challenges school districts, teachers, students, and parents have faced over the past year. Learning hasn’t been the same, and the disruption caused by COVID has meant the pace of learning for students hasn’t kept up with our expectations for a “normal” year.

Why It Matters

Given the amount of ESSER funding available and extended timeline to spend it, states and districts have an enormous opportunity. These funds can be used to implement a long-term, systemic solution that provides a pathway to recover and accelerate student learning now, and to build a more student-centered, resilient approach to learning moving forward.

Traditional steps of extended school hours or summer school alone may be insufficient to adequately reach, engage, and support students in a scalable and sustainable manner, especially those students facing the greatest disparities.

A systemic approach includes:

  • Mastery-based, personalized learning
  • Flexible schooling models and modalities
  • A digital teaching and learning hub
  • Alignment of deeper learning and authentic assessment

Together, these approaches enable a K-12 system to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever for short-term learning recovery, and long-term educational excellence and equity.

Additional Resources

To help you better understand all the K-12 related provisions in the American Rescue Plan, including ESSER, E-Rate, IDEA, and more, D2L has developed a comprehensive website and downloadable guide about the funding and how it can be used.

The information contained in this webpage is for informational purposes only. Please consult with the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the CARES Act, and CRRSAA for official guidance.

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