On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law. ARPA will send $129 billion into the US K-12 public education system. In the words of my dear friend, that is a lot of coin for our children to get their needs met.
The federal funding marks an important moment for parents and our communities as it opens up an opportunity to meet the unique needs of our most vulnerable students. ARPA sets up an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) in the amount of $123 billion. Now, we need the power of parent advocates to make sure this money reaches the students and families that need it most.
Our school system needs family voices to amplify the needs of our students, and make sure that decision-makers send these billions of dollars to serve the families that need them. Here are three things about ARPA every family should know:
- Maintenance of Effort and Equity: Maintenance of Effort and Equity was put into the American Rescue plan to ensure the state government uses this money to add more funding to our education systems. These provisions are meant to ensure our schools get the same portions of state funding, and that the funding goes to schools that need it most. If your school district tells you these funds are going to be used to replace regular funding, know that this is in violation of the law. Alert your state department of education! This money is meant to provide our students with extra post-pandemic support.
- Flexibility in Funds: Under ARPA, local education agencies (LEA) must save at least 20% of ESSER funds to address learning loss through evidence-based interventions. Nationwide, school districts will decide where $87.8 billion, or 80% of funds, will go. This money is meant to be based off local needs and priorities as outlined in SEC.2001.e.2. Families should immediately start vocalizing their needs to their school board members and their local district as we move into reopening schools.
- Mental Health Support: At least 20 percent of funds received by an LEA should be used to provide mental health services and support, including through the implementation of evidence-based full-service community schools. The definition of a full service community school is one that allows access to mental health services for students, families, and the community. This can also include access before and after school hours, and in the summer.
These are not the only provisions within the American Rescue Plan, but this is a place to start as we uplift the needs of Latinx students in our school systems.
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