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NC outlines plan to spend $3.6 billion to address learning loss due to COVID19

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced this week they approved North Carolina’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and that the remaining ARP ESSER funds had been distributed to the state. North Carolina’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.

Major elements of the plan include:

$30 million for tutoring

$35 million for a competitive grant program for extending school

Expanding afterschool programming

Expanding telehealth availability at schools

As schools and states begin the new school year, 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. North Carolina is receiving $3.6 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $1.2 billion. Additionally, the Department approved plans for Idaho, Maine, and Nevada. Today’s approvals mean a total of 37 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June. The Department has approved plans supporting more than 50 percent of students nationwide.

“I am excited to announce approval of North Carolina’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 look ahead to 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.”

“North Carolina’s plan for this funding isn’t just about recovering from the pandemic—it’s about rebuilding and re-envisioning the education landscape in our state,” said North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. “This plan is a product of thoughtful collaboration across the department and among key partners, including the General Assembly, with a focus on strategically investing money to meet the unique needs of every student. The newly-established Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration is prepared to direct these funds in ways that will support teachers, uplift students, and engage our community so we can foster a resilient recovery, where students are presented with better outcomes and new opportunities.”

“This pandemic has placed a remarkable strain on our students, educators, schools, and families,” said Rep. Deborah Ross. “Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration responded by passing the American Rescue Plan, providing billions of dollars in unprecedented relief to our K-12 schools so they may reopen safely and expand opportunities for students who need it most. I am glad to see the Department of Education approve North Carolina’s plan, and I look forward to working with officials at the local, state, and federal level to ensure the continued success of our students and educators.”

The American Rescue Plan stimulus funds are allocated according to how many of the district’s or school’s students are considered low-income. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction submitted its plan to the federal education department in June, after a 30-day public comment period on a draft version of it.

The U.S. Department of Education originally rejected the state’s plan on two counts: insufficient stakeholder input and lack of specificity. To correct the issues, DPI scheduled additional stakeholder meetings specifically targeted for representatives of disadvantaged students. 

The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department 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. 

The distribution of ARP ESSER funds is part of the Department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to reengage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and build our education system back better than before. 

North Carolina ARP ESSER State Plan Highlights:

Total ARP ESSER allocation for North Carolina: $3,601,780,364

ARP ESSER funding released to North Carolina on March 24, 2021: $2,399,461,137 ARP ESSER funding released to North Carolina on September 13, 2021: $1,202,319,227 2020-2021 Preliminary Statewide Enrollment: 1,513,677

Top Priorities within North Carolina’s plan:

• Academic recovery in reading and math

• Addressing the social emotional health and well-being of children throughout the state

Highlights of North Carolina’s Plan:

• Returning to In Person Learning in 2021: Public schools in North Carolina are required to

offer in person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

• Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) will consider specific evidence-based interventions, including $30,000,000 for high-impact tutoring statewide, $19,000,000 for a competency-based assessment and platform to be used across the state, and $35,000,000 for a competitive grant program for school extensions.

• Investing in Expanded Afterschool Programs: NCDPI has proposed allocating ARP ESSER funds to support extended learning recovery afterschool enrichment.

• Staffing to Support Students’ Needs: The Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration is working with health care professionals to improve health and educational outcomes for children in North Carolina. The team is currently working to expand an existing model that provides elementary schools with access to pediatricians via telehealth technologies. Early indications show this telehealth option reduces barriers to care for students resulting in improved health outcomes for children, reduced chronic absenteeism, and a decrease in the impact of health care-related costs on parents or caregivers.

• Community Engagement and Consultation: NCDPI held stakeholder engagement sessions in July and August 2021. NCDPI received formal approval from the State Board of Education to create an ARP ESSER Advisory Group. The ARP ESSER Advisory Group will convene regularly and provide suggestions to improve implementation and further development of the ARP ESSER State Plan. Members will be appointed and will represent each of the stakeholder groups described in the ARP ESSER State Plan.

School districts across North Carolina have until September 30, 2021 to submit their Use of Funds Plans to the state for consideration. Individual district plans will have to include how the funds will be spent through September 30, 2024, which is the deadline the federal government has associated with the funding. 

The $3.6 billion earmarked for education is the latest round of COVID19 relief money sent to North Carolina from the Federal Government. In addition to the $3.6 billion, the state received $1.6 billion under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in December, $400 million in federal funds directed through the General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper as well as $396.3 million from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act passed in the Spring of 2020. 

North Carolina stands to receive additional federal dollars through COVID19 relief funding if the state elects to close the health insurance coverage gap. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 encourages non-expansion states to take up the expansion by providing an additional temporary fiscal incentive for states to newly implement the ACA Medicaid expansion. The American Rescue Plan would adding another 5 percent of federal matching dollars for two years after initiation of the policy. An estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that for North Carolina, that boost to the bottom line would be about $1.7 billion overall, while the cost to the state would be about a half-billion dollars a year, a net gain of as much as $1.2 billion for the state.

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