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The American Rescue Plan: Q&A

On the heels of the CARES Act and the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) comes the American Rescue Plan (ARP), recently signed into law by President Biden. With an allocation of $182 billion earmarked for education, the ARP offers significantly more funding than CARES ($30.5 billion) and the ESF ($82 billion) did, and presents unique opportunities and challenges for school districts nationwide.

While there are some hard-and-fast guidelines for how states and districts can use the funds, the ARP does allow for a great deal of flexibility to meet individual needs. Below we address some of the issues facing the education sector with respect to this stimulus plan and offer some key data points to keep in mind as you plan for the upcoming school year.

What are the guidelines for state and district allocations of the ARP funding?

Approximately $129 billion is allocated for distribution to the states for K12 education. Before distributing funds to districts, states are required to allocate:

  • 5% for interventions for learning loss, especially in underserved communities.
  • 1% toward evidence-based summer enrichment programs.
  • 1% toward evidence-based comprehensive after-school programs.

So far the federal government has distributed $80 billion in funding. To get the rest of the funding, states must submit reopening plans, showing:

  • what measures are in place to reopen schools safely and how they plan to sustain safe operations for in-person learning.
  • how they are addressing inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • how they are addressing learning loss and social-emotional learning (SEL) needs.
  • how they are addressing workforce issues such as teacher shortages.

From there, states can allocate funds to their districts, with districts required to use at least 20% of their funds to address learning loss and SEL. All funds must be spent by September 2024.

How will districts be likely to spend their money?

According to recent research by Education Week  Research Center, the top two ways districts will be spending their money are on SEL support (67%) and summer learning programs (66%). Addressing learning loss in elementary ELA (61%) and elementary math (57%) were also top concerns. Device purchases (53%) were also a priority. School districts that have not yet gone to a 1:1 model are likely planning to do so with the use of these funds.

How do state and district plans for spending ARP funds differ from their use of CARES and ESF funding?

All three stimulus plans allowed states and districts latitude to spend the funds in the most advantageous way for their needs. The ARP does come with some more specific guidelines for allocation, but the language within these guidelines still allows for flexibility.

The earlier stimulus funds were largely used on things like personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and HVAC and air filtration upgrades for schools. Now that most districts have these in place, the focus of spending with the ARP will turn toward supporting the SEL needs of students and addressing learning gaps.

The ARP presents a strong opportunity for education companies and organizations with education initiatives to support schools and districts in these areas. SEL programs and supplemental curriculum providers that support summer learning will be in demand, as well as remedial elementary English Language Arts and math programs.

Now is the time to connect with schools and districts about how you can help them solve some of their biggest challenges and help them meet the ARP criteria for funding. MMS can help you build strategies, conduct research and launch awareness programs to reach and engage with school leaders so that when they are ready to use their funding, your brand is top of mind. Set up a time to talk with MMS’s Executive Vice President Jodie Buenning by clicking here.

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