This issue brief was written by the WVCBP’s summer research associate, Tamicah Owens.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides states with assistance and broad economic relief as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act also includes $123 billion in new, flexible funding known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF) for school districts that they can spend over the next three and a half school years — the largest ever one-time federal investment in K-12 education. West Virginia schools will receive $761.9 million to ensure that they can reopen safely and meet students’ educational needs.
Federal rules specifically require 20 percent of the funds be used to address the academic losses students experienced in connection to COVID-19’s impact on instruction and learning time. The funds may be used to mitigate a multitude of issues sparked or exacerbated by the pandemic, including through paying for upgrades to school facilities, academic support programs, technology enhancements, student social and emotional health supports, and additional teachers and staff. The federal rules also require activities and interventions that “respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups, including each major racial and ethnic group, children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, gender, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care.”
The majority of the funds will go to local school boards that will make critical decisions on how to use the money; however, the local decision-making bodies must receive public input from educators and parents on their proposed plans. This represents a significant opportunity for West Virginia to address some of the longstanding needs and challenges in its education system.
Read the full issue brief here.