Dear District Administrators,
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law yesterday by President Biden. This ARPA includes another round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III), as well as money for internet connectivity for schools and libraries, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and extension of the Pandemic EBT food program for students. Details on each of these provisions follow below.
The ARPA allocates $122,774,800,000 for ESSER III. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) estimates this will mean around $1.4 billion for Wisconsin. This money will be available for use by local education agencies (LEAs) through September 30, 2024. There are no supplement not supplant or equitable participation requirements. Ninety percent of the funds are again required to be allocated using the Title I formula, a poverty population formula under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This means if you received funds under ESSER II, the DPI is estimating you will receive twice that amount under ESSER III.
LEAs receiving funds under this program are required to set-aside 20 percent of the funds to address learning loss and are not allowed to reduce per-pupil funding for any high poverty school in fiscal year 2022 or 2023. Additionally, all LEAs receiving funds are required to develop and make publicly available on the LEA’s website, not later than 30 days after receiving the allocation of funds, a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services. This plan had to have been open to and received public comment in its development. If a plan exists that already meets this requirement, a new plan is not required.
The uses of funds under ESSER III are as broad as they were under ESSER II. They include:
- any activity authorized under the ESEA;
- any activity authorized by the IDEA;
- any activity authorized by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act;
- any activity authorized by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act;
- coordination of preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies with State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments;
- activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population;
- developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies;
- training and professional development for staff of the local educational agency on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases;
- purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local educational agency, including buildings operated by such agency;
- planning for, coordinating, and implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students and providing technology for online learning to all students;
- purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and children with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment;
- providing mental health services and supports, including through the implementation of evidence-based full-service community schools;
- planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs;
- addressing learning loss among students, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care;
- school facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs;
- inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and nonmechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement;
- developing strategies and implementing public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff; and
- other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in LEAs.
Ten percent of the ESSER III funds, estimated to be $140,000,000, are reserved for a state set-aside. Further, the DPI is required to reserve:
- 5 percent of the total funding to address learning loss ($70 million);
- 1 percent of the total funding for summer enrichment programs ($14 million); and
- 1 percent of the total funding for afterschool programs ($14 million).
These required set-asides are to be carried out by the DPI directly or through grants or contracts. The law also provides 0.5 percent of the total funding ($7 million) for administrative purposes. The DPI does plan to provide a minimum amount of funds to LEAs to ensure every LEA receives funds under the ARPA. Given the amount of money allocated under this program, however, the DPI will be required, as the department was under ESSER I and II, to present a plan to the Joint Committee on Finance for approval before any money, including how formula amounts and required set-asides can be allocated and spent.
Homeless Students and IDEA Provisions
The ARPA included $800,000,000 for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary to use to identify and serve homeless students and award grants and the following additional amounts under IDEA:
- $2,580,000,000 for grants to States under part B
- $200,000,000 for preschool grants under section 619
- $250,000,000 for programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities under part C
At this time, the DPI does not have details on how much the money appropriated under these provisions will translate for Wisconsin.
Emergency Connectivity Fund
$7 billion is appropriated through an Emergency Connectivity fund for eligible schools and libraries for the purchase of eligible equipment or advanced telecommunications and information services (or both) for use by:
- In the case of a school, students and staff of the school at locations that include locations other than the school
- In the case of a library, patrons of the library at locations that include locations other than the library
Additional information will be forthcoming surrounding eligibility and how to access funds, but in providing support under this program 100 percent of the costs are to be reimbursed up to a yet-to-be established limit.
Pandemic EBT Program
The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act extends Pandemic EBT through the end of September 2021. Wisconsin has received approval for their state plan, and systematic benefit issuance will begin soon with some changes to eligibility. Check out the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Pandemic EBT 2020-2021: Food Benefits for Students Learning at Home webpage.
As further details are made available, the DPI will provide you with updated information.