Summary of Key ARP ESSER Provisions
ARP will provide Pennsylvania with more than $4.9 billion in one-time emergency funding to support the long-term work of education recovery through the ESSER Fund.
ARP ESSER funding is intended to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on underserved students (e.g., students from low-income families, students from historically disadvantaged racial or ethnic groups, students from disproportionately impacted gender groups, English learners, children with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, and migrant students). Funding will help schools invest in mitigation strategies consistent with the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools to the greatest extent practicable; address the many impacts of COVID-19 on students including from interrupted instruction; implement strategies to meet students' social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs; offer crucial summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs; support early childhood education; invest in staff capacity; and avoid layoffs that would compound a pre-existing educator pipeline challenge.
Under ARP ESSER, at least 90 percent, or nearly $4.5 billion2, of Pennsylvania's ARP ESSER allocation will flow to eligible public school districts and charter schools, with each LEA receiving
an amount proportional to the federal Title I, Part A (Title I-A) funds received in fiscal year (FY) 2020-21.
ARP ESSER funding may be utilized for allowable costs dating back to March 13, 2020, when the national emergency was declared. Funding is available for obligation by both PDE and subrecipients through September 30, 2023; and, under the Tydings Amendment (Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act 20 U.S.C 1225(B)), any funds not obligated at the end of the federal funding period (i.e., September 2023) remain available for obligation for an additional period of 12 months. In effect, the allowable period for obligation of ARP ESSER funding is from March 13, 2020 to September 30, 2024, and all contract end dates under ARP ESSER must not extend beyond September 30, 2024.
Consistent with the state reservation provisions under ARP ESSER, approximately 10 percent of the total funding allocated to Pennsylvania will fund state-level activities and interventions administered by PDE. ARP requires states to use the funding as follows:
- At least 5 percent ($249,847,650) must be used to address the academic impact of lost instructional time by supporting the implementation of evidence-based interventions (e.g., summer learning, extended day, afterschool programs, extended school year) to support 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, disproportionately affected gender groups, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care;
- At least 1 percent ($49,969,530) must be used to implement evidence-based comprehensive after-school programs;
- At least 1 percent ($49,969,530) must be used to implement evidence-based summer enrichment programs;
- Up to 0.5 percent ($24,984,765) may be utilized by PDE to manage the costs of implementing and administering ARP ESSER funds throughout the term of the grant; and
- The remaining amount ($124,923,825) may be utilized for any allowable uses under ARP ESSER. Please see "Allowable Uses under ARP ESSER" below.
PDE began its planning process for utilizing the state-level portion of funding by engaging in consultation with stakeholders, including State Board of Education members; district, charter and Intermediate Unit (IU) administrators; local school board members; and representatives of civil and disability rights community organizations, education associations, and parent and advocacy organizations. Stakeholder engagement was conducted through interviews, focus groups, and questionnaires.
Pennsylvania plans to utilize state reservations to support initiatives that can be designed, implemented, and resourced with greater economy of scale at the state level than would be possible or practical for LEAs to pursue individually.
PDE intends to use a portion of the state-level reserve to fund education entities that are not eligible for ESSA Title I-A funding and those that serve high-need student populations, such as IUs, Career and Technology Centers, entities that provide services for children and youth in local correctional institutions and community day programs, and other school entities.
ARP ESSER, like earlier rounds of federal emergency aid, comes with important requirements for states to maintain their own investments in education and to distribute education aid in an equitable manner. These requirements include the following:
Maintenance of Effortfor K-12 and Higher Education Funding from the State. Under this provision, states must continue to provide funding in both FYs 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 at a minimum of the average of investments when compared to total state spending from FYs 2016–2017, 2017–2018, and 2018–2019.
State-Level Maintenance of Equity for High-Need LEAs. State per-pupil funding for both FYs 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 for the neediest LEAs cannot be reduced by an amount that exceeds the overall decrease in per-pupil state funds. High-need LEAs include those with the highest percentages of economically disadvantaged students and those which collectively serve at least 50 percent of the state's total student enrollment within LEAs.
State-Level Maintenance of Equity for Highest Poverty LEAs. Under this provision, funding must continue to be provided in both FYs 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 in the highest poverty LEAs at a level that is, at minimum, equal to FY2018–2019 levels (as calculated on a per-pupil basis). Highest Poverty LEAs include those with the highest percentages of economically disadvantaged students, and which collectively serve 20 percent or more of the state's total student enrollment within LEAs.
Case Study: Logic and Leadership for ARP ESSER Success
Dr. Damaris Rau, Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster, has an ESSER rescue plan for her district. A new theory of action is guiding the district's leadership structure and work under ARP ESSER. Dr. Rau explains the theory of action as consisting of three parts: "If we (a) implement a standards-aligned curriculum with a focus on reading and math in grades K–3, math in grades 6–8, and equitable opportunities for students at the high school, (b) provide early and on-going interventions, and (c) establish a systemic approach to social-emotional learning for all students, then our students' academic growth and achievement will increase. The district is establishing teams based on these priority areas." The work is guided by
Pennsylvania Essential Practices published by PDE.
These priority teams will provide leadership during the ARP ESSER grant period in relation to the assigned priority area, and team leaders will meet with the Superintendent who will provide oversight. Priority teams will develop benchmarks and activities aligned with their assigned priority area.
Next steps for the School District of Lancaster include engaging the district's multiple partners in support of the plan. Dr. Rau explains that the district was able to offer equitable support to students during the pandemic as a result of productive relationships with community partners. During school closures, the district worked to teach employees of partner organizations the district reading programs so that they were able to reinforce school day instruction during the closure and during after-school programming, secured free internet access for all students without internet access through a local foundation, and created learning hubs in each school to support students learning virtually.
Based on ARP requirements, at least 90 percent of ARP ESSER funds will be distributed to LEAs based on their relative share of Title I-A funding in FY 2020.
ARP ESSER is one-time emergency relief funding, and, as such, LEAs are expected to use this funding to ensure the safe return to in-person instruction as well as to meet students' academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs and address the opportunity gaps that existed before—and were exacerbated by—the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 20 percent of each LEA's allocation must be used to measure and address the academic impact of lost instructional time through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs. Please see below for additional information about the 20 percent reserve.
In addition, the LEA must take educational equity into account in planning for and expending ARP ESSER funds, including but not limited to implementing an equitable and inclusive return to in-person instruction. Activities under ARP ESSER should specifically address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain groups of students, including:
- Students from low-income families;
- Students from each racial or ethnic group (e.g., identifying disparities and focusing on underserved student groups by race or ethnicity);
- Gender (e.g., identifying disparities and focusing on underserved student groups by gender);
- English learners;
- Children with disabilities (including infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]);
- Students experiencing homelessness;
- Children and youth in foster care;
- Migrant students; and
- Other groups disproportionately impacted by the pandemic that have been identified by the LEA (e.g., youth involved in the criminal justice system, students who have missed the most in-person instruction during the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 school years, students who did not consistently participate in remote instruction when offered during school building closures, and LGBTQ+ students).
For school districts, the LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER Funds should consider both individual schools and districtwide activities based on student need.
How the Local Portion Breaks Down
20 Percent Reserve to Address the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time
Section 2001(e)(1) of the ARP Act requires recipient school districts and charter schools to use an amount totaling not less than 20 percent of the LEA's total allocation of ARP ESSER funds to address the academic impact of lost instructional time through the implementation of
evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs; and ensure that such interventions respond to students' academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups (defined above).
LEAs are strongly encouraged to develop local plans based on consultation of PDE's Evidence Resource Center (ERC)—a customized website, designed by Pennsylvania educators and some of the nation's foremost education scholars. The ERC identifies strategies backed by rigorous research and allows educators to filter these strategies based on federal evidence tiers, school type or grade level, specific student groups, and other factors. An LEA operating under federal accountability designations,
now extended through 2022, will be asked to assure that its LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER Funds reflects consultation of the Evidence Resource Center. Appendix 1 includes additional sources for evidence-based reviews, including the What Works Clearinghouse, Evidence for ESSA, and other health- and safety-focused review resources.
In planning for the 20 percent reserve, LEAs are encouraged to follow a process similar to
comprehensive planning and
school improvement planning, including conducting a needs assessment; establishing evidence-based, standards-aligned instructional programs; supporting schools and their communities in removing barriers to learning; customizing support systems to meet local needs and the context of individual schools; implementing data-informed human capital systems; and allocating resources based on the needs of individual schools and their communities. Throughout the grant period, the process should continue in a cycle of improvement focused on results for students, and especially those students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
How can equity center a local plan for addressing learning loss?
Equity begins by listening carefully to students and their families. Student and family surveys and focus groups can provide information on student social and emotional wellness and mental health that can augment needs assessment data collected by schools. The degree of unfinished learning and educational harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will vary by individual student, subject area, and grade level.
High-quality, evidence-based interventions are the surest path to supporting students to help them reach and exceed grade-level standards and develop social and emotional competencies. Students will need access to interventions, supports, and opportunities, and they must be supported by adults who care for their well-being and who take the time to build trusting relationships with them and with their families.
As opportunities for accelerated learning are designed, important principles for equitable scheduling should be followed:
- Refrain from scheduling tutoring or other supports at times when students would need to miss opportunities for enrichment and critical and creative thinking in order to participate. Rather, create
more opportunities for disproportionally impacted students to close opportunity and access gaps.
- Take care not to make students feel inferior because of their participation in interventions to address educational harms.
- Avoid punishing students by taking away their recess, specials, or other social activities to gain learning time.
- Provide opportunities for students to be immediately successful with accelerated learning activities. Build on student strengths.
- Ensure that school time is used especially well to maximize learning time. Extended learning time can only be effective if time during the regular school day is also used as effectively as possible.
Increasing opportunity and access to programs that address learning loss and providing accelerated learning in an equitable way will enable schools to meet the needs of students disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
Remediation vs. Acceleration
Accelerated Learning Toolkit mitigates learning gaps and emotional health concerns through an accelerated learning system that includes a focus on high-quality academics, supportive learning environments, healthy system conditions, and a system of scaffolded supports. This new resource provides a systematic process and technical support for school leaders and communities to make key decisions for the start of the new school year.
The U.S. Education Department also emphasizes the importance of learning acceleration for pandemic recovery in its
ED COVID-19 Handbook, Vol. 2.
There is a key distinction between traditional remediation and learning acceleration that necessitates a shift in thinking when providing supports to students. Accelerated learning concentrates on providing instruction to students in their grade-level curriculum with built-in opportunities to capture any missed skills or concepts from the previous year. Through accelerated learning, students can overcome any gaps in their learning while engaging in new learning, ultimately mitigating any learning loss. Table 1 outlines the various mindset shifts that facilitate true learning acceleration that enables students to learn at grade level, expanding educational opportunities for the students furthest behind.
Table 1: Shift in Thinking, from Remediation to Acceleration
|Teachers focus on filling gaps in missed learning—catching up||Teachers focus on enabling students to achieve grade-level skills—keeping up|
|Coverage of missed curriculum is paramount||Student mastery of essential skills is paramount|
|Focus on what students do not know||Build on what students know as a way to access new learning|
|Classroom teachers instruct students on the same skill at the same time||Classroom teachers enable multiple instructional modalities so each student can focus on the skills needed to accelerate|
|Focus is on drilling isolated skills that may not be related to the current curriculum||Vertical alignment of priority standards is used to provide on-ramps for student to meet current curriculum demands|
|Students who are deemed furthest behind are the furthest removed from the current curriculum||Acceleration allows students to preview new concepts before their classmates even begin|
|Continue remediating until all missed content is covered||Provide acceleration services as needed to enable students to succeed with grade-level content|
Remaining 80 Percent of Funds
Beyond the 20 percent reserve to address the academic impact of lost instructional time, LEAs may use ARP ESSER funds for a wide range of activities to meet needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins CTE), or subtitle B of Title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. ARP ESSER funds may be used to develop strategies and implement public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies that reflect CDC guidance on reopening and operating schools to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff.
Special Instructions for Schools operating under Federal Accountability Designations
On March 26, 2021, Pennsylvania received a
waiver from the U.S. Education Department, pausing federal school accountability determinations until Fall 2022. As a result, schools currently designated for comprehensive support and improvement (CSI), targeted support and improvement (TSI), and additional targeted support and improvement (A-TSI) will: (1) maintain these designations through the 2021–2022 school year; and (2) continue to receive appropriate supports and interventions. To implement Pennsylvania's waiver, PDE will require LEAs with one or more CSI or A-TSI schools to verify, via the ARP ESSER application, consultation of the
Evidence Resource Center in developing the LEA Plan for the Use of ARP ESSER Funds and provide a justification when an intervention that is not supported by
tier 1, 2, 3, or 4 evidence is selected.
Allowable Uses Under ARP ESSER
Following are allowable uses of ARP ESSER funds, grouped into major categories. The list is intended to convey the wide range of allowable uses and is not exhaustive. For the text from the ARP Act regarding allowable expenditures, see Appendix 2. While ARP ESSER funds have a wide variety of allowable uses, all ARP ESSER expenditures must be in line with all required cost principles of the Uniform Grant Guidance, including being reasonable, necessary, and allocable.
In determining how to prioritize funds, an LEA should consider how to use those funds to safely reopen schools for full-time instruction for all students, maintain safe in-person operations, advance educational equity, and build capacity. An LEA may provide services directly or enter into an agreement (e.g., a contract or interagency agreement consistent with procurement requirements or otherwise legally authorized) for allowable activities under ESSER. An LEA is not authorized to award subgrants with ESSER funds.
Safe, In-person Schooling and Continuity of Services
- Coordinating preparedness and response efforts with public health departments to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19, including the development and implementation of procedures and systems to undertake such efforts
- Training and professional development on sanitizing and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
- Implementing infection prevention and control protocols
- Aligning school reopening with public health guidance
- Satisfying other short-term needs associated with the pandemic
- Planning for or initiating activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students and providing technology for online learning
- Improving cybersecurity infrastructure
While these funds can also be used for maintaining the operation and continuity of LEA services, including to employ existing or hiring new LEA and school staff, it is important to consider how staffing will be impacted when federal funding is no longer available.
- Repairing and improving school facilities to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs
- Improving indoor air quality, including installation of mechanical ventilation and/or advanced filtration systems and/or upgrading HVAC systems
- Undertaking the remediation of mold, lead, and other sources of poor indoor air quality
- Replacing windows to allow for improved intake of fresh air
- Upgrading facilities to comply with American Disabilities Act requirements
- Repairing or replacing roofing in certain circumstances
- Replacing plumbing to ensure safe drinking water
- Undertaking priority school facility repairs and improvements that will accelerate a safe return to in-person learning
- Creating outdoor classroom spaces and/or outdoor eating areas
Please note that prior written approval is required by PDE before the LEA may use the funds for remodeling, renovation, or new construction.
- Providing mental health supports to students and staff, including through the implementation of evidence-based, full-service community schools and the hiring of counselors
- Performing regular mental health screenings and providing referrals to counselors for students who need extra support
- Partnering with mental health organizations to provide extra assistance for students who need it
- Implementing restorative practices, such as restorative circles, as an alternative to traditional discipline
- Establishing policies and practices that avoid the over-use of exclusionary discipline measures (including in- and out-of-school suspensions)
- Creating a positive and supportive learning environment for all students
- Creating new teacher leader roles such as multi-classroom leaders, to enable highly effective educators to extend their reach
- Maintaining school staff and providing professional training
- Adopting robust professional learning plans to build teacher capacity
- Utilizing innovative staffing models that employ school counselors, mental health professionals, psychologists, substitutes, student teachers/teacher residents, institutions of higher education, tutors, or other educational agencies
- Rebuilding the educator pipeline with a focus on diversifying the workforce
- Providing retention bonuses for teachers in high-need subject areas and/or schools or increases to teacher salary to support retention efforts
- Improving working conditions
- Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment) for students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors
- Purchasing books, art supplies, play equipment, and other supplies to improve learning opportunities
- Establishing or expanding summer bridge programs
- Planning and implementing additional activities related to summer learning, supplemental after-school programs, and extended school day/year
- Supporting and protecting LEA-sponsored PreK/early childhood programs
- Reconnecting with truant students
- Conducting diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments to measure learning
- Reviewing each student's academic and attendance record during the COVID-19 pandemic to determine needs and develop "individual learning plans" including goals and progress benchmarks
- Providing tutoring services for every student in need
- Developing a streamlined curriculum with identified priority standards
- Creating or enhancing college and career readiness programs such as dual enrollment/early college, internships, and apprenticeships
- Conducting an equity analysis
- Making structural changes, e.g., in LEA administrative practices to distribute resources more equitably across schools within an LEA
- Strengthening multi-tiered systems of support
- Addressing the needs of children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care
- Increasing opportunity to learn factors for underserved youth
- Developing culturally responsive curriculum
- Offering training on how bias and privilege affect classrooms and schools
- Engaging in open, honest, two-way conversations with parents about how well their child is prepared for the next grade—and working with families to design plans to address learning loss
- Conducting home visits for teachers to meet families
- Connecting students, families, and teachers through games and art projects, small group discussions, and other activities
- Providing wraparound supports for students
- Developing community schools
- Creating an asset map to identify existing community-based supports and plan for expansion or creation of partnerships to meet student needs
Can ARP ESSER fund facilities improvements?
2019 synthesis of 250 studies, spanning 30 years, by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that environmental issues in school buildings, from mold to poor ventilation to noise, lighting and more, can adversely impact learning. The authors conclude that "improving the school building may well be the most overlooked means of improving student health, safety and academic performance."
In fact, a
2020 study of Pennsylvania school facilities finds "widespread health and safety problems" stemming from facilities issues in Pennsylvania, particularly in low-income districts and those that enroll a high percentage of Black and Latinx students.
LEAs that wish to expend ARP ESSER funds on facilities initiatives may be permitted to make facility upgrades to comply with American Disabilities Act requirements; upgrade HVAC systems; remediate mold, lead, and other sources of poor indoor air quality; install mechanical ventilation and/or advanced filtration systems; replace windows to allow for improved intake of fresh air, and replace plumbing to ensure safe drinking water—among other upgrades that improve the health and safety of school buildings.
All capital expenditures supported with federal funds must be pre-approved by PDE. Capital expenditures means expenditures to acquire capital assets (i.e., land, facilities, or equipment over $5,000 per unit) or expenditures to make additions, improvements, modifications, replacements, rearrangements, reinstallations, renovations, or alterations to capital assets that materially increase their value or useful life.
As outlined in the Department's initial guidance, a comprehensive analysis of existing facilities and environmental health needs, coupled with artifacts from local stakeholder engagement (e.g., meeting minutes, community and staff surveys, and annual school climate data) that document the role that capital improvements can make in ensuring safe in-person learning for the long-term, will help LEAs demonstrate prudent, allowable use of ARP ESSER funds. Further guidance on obtaining pre-approval of capital expenditures is forthcoming.
Case Study: Strategically Investing Non-Recurring Federal Funds
Uri Monson, Chief Financial Officer of the School District of Philadelphia, explains that having to make serious cuts is the second hardest thing to do in government budgeting. The first? Determining how to spend one-time funds responsibly.
The SDP experienced the funding cliff when monies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ran out. Monson explains that in SDP, 3,000 people were laid off in one year, including 50 percent of central office staff and all school nurses. He is adamant: "We do not want to do that again."
To strategically invest ARP ESSER funds without creating a funding cliff, Monson is leading his team to create a one-year budget in the context of a five-year strategic financial plan and is layering the ARP funds over the plan to clearly indicate what will happen to funding after September 2024.
One important tip from Monson's team is to make short-term investments that have long-term implications, aligning spending with four strategic focus areas: learning recovery, social and emotional learning, facilities readiness, and general education.
To make decisions related to ARP ESSER funding, the School District of Philadelphia released an online stakeholder survey asking stakeholders to rank ideas within priority areas. Approximately 12,000 responses were collected, with two-thirds of responses coming from families of enrolled students. In addition, the district held nine focus groups to listen to the voices of students, families, and community members.
How can ESSER funds be used for sustainability and long-term improvement?
- Set priorities within an overall vision that will drive learning forward
- Focus on durable, systemic change such as revamped schedules and staffing
- Invest in professional development to build staff capacity
- Devote energy to building community partnerships that last beyond the funding window
- Use one-time funds to develop curriculum and implement programs that may be sustained at a reduced cost through other, longer-term funding sources
- Fund interventions that address student academic or social or emotional needs
- Provide stipends to existing personnel for taking on additional responsibilities
- Invest in one-time infrastructure upgrades that support healthy, safe buildings
LEA Maintenance of Equity Provision
Not to be confused with the two state-level Maintenance of Equity provisions described on page 11, all LEAs receiving ARP ESSER funds are obligated to follow an LEA Maintenance of Equity provision during fiscal years 2021–2022 and 2022–2023. Under Maintenance of Equity, per-pupil funding from state and local sources and staffing levels for
high-poverty schools may not be decreased by an amount that exceeds districtwide reductions in per-pupil funding and staffing levels for
all schools served by the LEA. High-poverty schools are the 25 percent of schools serving the highest percent of economically disadvantaged students in the LEA as measured by Free and Reduced Meals as reported and certified by LEAs in the
Pennsylvania Information Management System (PIMS).
This means that LEAs must track ARP ESSER funds by school.
An LEA is exempt from the Maintenance of Equity requirement if the LEA meets any one of the following requirements:
- Has fewer than 1,000 students;
- Consists of a single school;
- Serves all students in each grade span in a single school; or
- Demonstrates an exceptional or uncontrollable circumstance, as determined by the United States Secretary of Education.
As PDE receives further guidance from the U.S. Education Department on the Maintenance of Equity provision, it will be shared with LEAs.
These calculations should be completed for all schools in the LEA as well as for high-poverty schools in the LEA for both fiscal years 2021–2022 and 2022–2023. Compare the results to the average per-pupil funding and FTE staff in the LEA to the previous fiscal year. Reductions must not be greater for high-poverty schools than for all schools in the LEA.
2In Pennsylvania, the minimum to be distributed to LEAs is $4,497,257,836.