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After a year of unimaginable challenges, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER) presents a historic opportunity. At the state and local level, it will be critical to use the resources equitably and in a way that balances urgency and sustainability while maximizing stakeholder engagement and transparency.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education's (PDE) approach to recovery from the crises of the past year emphasizes maximum flexibility for local education agencies (LEAs)1 in assessing needs and in designing activities and interventions to meet those needs. Recognizing the differential effects of the pandemic and related challenges, all LEAs are encouraged to leverage ARP ESSER funding, as well as earlier rounds of federal emergency aid, to accelerate a return to in-person learning, while also planning for the long-term and considering the many impacts from this unprecedented challenge that have yet to emerge.

Through ARP ESSER funding we hope to promote safe school operations and equity-driven, sustainable, evidence-based programs to serve students—especially those who are the furthest from opportunity—and continue to strengthen teaching and learning. The next three-plus years—the period of allowability for ARP ESSER funds—provide an opportunity to center our schools on equity, stakeholder engagement, and evidence-based teaching and learning. Through a transparent process in which we will use progress monitoring to foster continuous learning and improvement, we intend to strengthen our learning communities as we recover, becoming more resilient, flexible, and inclusive.

The following guide is intended for LEAs as they plan for their use and oversight of LEA ARP ESSER funds. In addition, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are available on the PDE website.

1Throughout this document, the term "local education agency" (LEA) refers to school districts and charter schools, the two types of entities eligible to receive ARP ESSER funding in proportion to the amount of funds they received under the Title I-A formula for the 2020–2021 fiscal year.