Describe to what extent the SEA has and will coordinate Federal COVID-19 pandemic funding and other Federal funding. This description must include:
How the SEA and its LEAs 1) are using or have used prior to the submission of this plan and 2) plan to use following submission of this plan, Federal COVID-19 funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act to support a safe return to and safely maximize in-person instruction, sustain these operations safely, and address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individual student groups (including students from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, racial or ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, and migratory students);
Pennsylvania's total ESSER I allocation under the CARES Act was $523.8 million. Of this amount, $471.4 million was directly allocated to school districts and charter schools based on the same formula used for Title I-A allocations in 2019.
LEA allocations are available on PDE's website. PDE reserved $2.6 million for grant administration. The Pennsylvania General Assembly combined the remaining $49.8 million in ESSER I funds with $100 million in federal CARES Act funding to award COVID-19 Disaster Emergency School Health and Safety Grants to school districts, area career and technical education schools, IUs, charter schools, regional charter schools, and cyber charter schools for the 2020-21 school year. More than 770 eligible school entities received a total of $150 million; funding was distributed using a formula set forth in Act 30 of 2020, a state law authorizing the state to use CARES Act funding for this purpose. School entities were permitted to use the funding for the purchase of cleaning and sanitizing products; training and professional development of staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases; equipment purchases; modifications of existing areas to support appropriate social distancing of students and staff; the provision of mental health services and supports; educational technology for distance learning; and other health and safety programs, items, or services necessary to address the COVID-19 disaster emergency.
In March 2020,
Pennsylvania received $104.4 million in GEER I funding. In accordance with the CARES Act, Pennsylvania awarded GEER I funding to LEAs and institutions of higher education (IHEs) within the commonwealth that have been most significantly impacted by the pandemic to support their ability to continue to provide educational services and to support their ongoing functionality. GEER I funding was also granted to other LEAs, IHEs, and education-related entities within Pennsylvania deemed essential to carry out emergency educational services, provide childcare and early childhood education, provide social and emotional support, and protect education-related jobs.
At the direction of Governor Wolf, GEER I funding supported the following programs and initiatives:
Preschool Early Intervention (EI) Programs: Pennsylvania's EI program provides support and services to families with children ages 3–5 with developmental delays and disabilities. Approximately 13,700 children are enrolled in EI classrooms across the commonwealth. PDE awarded $3 million in subgrants to Preschool Early Intervention programs serving children ages 3–5 for staff training, policy development, personal protective equipment, sanitization, and disinfecting materials and supplies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Preschool Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) classrooms. Allocations were calculated based on the number/percentage of children served in ECSE classroom settings. Six school districts, 26 IUs, and a non-profit provider received grants. An additional $5 million in GEER I grant funding was used to support Preschool EI programs with providing compensatory education services to eligible young children who regressed or did not make meaningful progress because of their inability to access IEP services during the pandemic. Six school districts, 26 IUs, and a non-profit provider received grants. Grantees used the funding for contracted services, technology resources, assistive devices, personal protective equipment (PPE) to support in-home services, learning platforms, and other appropriate resources.
Emergency Continuity of Education Equity Grants: In April 2020, 477 LEAs identified critical gaps in designing and deploying COVID-19–related continuity of education and requested nearly $22 million in support from PDE. Due to limited state funding, PDE was able to distribute $5.05 million through 96 awards, with priority being given to schools with the highest percentages of students unable to participate in continuity of education. Therefore, PDE used $13.5 million of GEER I funding to award grants to an additional 271 LEAs that did not receive funding in April 2020 and continued to be significantly impacted by the pandemic. Approximately 179,000 students benefitted from these grants. LEAs used the funding to purchase computer equipment, such as laptops, tablets, and internet hot spots and to provide instructional materials, such as paper lessons and coursework.
Equity Grants for Career and Technical Education: PDE awarded $10.5 million in GEER I equity grants to 78 area CTCs, which includes 114 secondary schools, for effective continuity of education and industry credentialing for students enrolled in CTCs negatively impacted by COVID-19. Grants were calculated based on the Perkins secondary allocation formula and included consideration for buildings with 20 or more ELs. CTCs used this funding to offer summer programs, expanded career and technical education programming (including delivering programs online and staggering hands-on training for in-person instruction), and industry credential assessments, as well as to implement their Health and Safety Plans during the 2020– 21 school year.
Technical Assistance and Support for A-TSI Schools: PDE awarded nearly $2 million in GEER I funds to the state's 29 IUs to support schools that exhibit high- level student need based on poverty or significant disparities in student subgroup performance. Interdisciplinary teams of general and special education personnel provided on-site technical assistance and support to LEAs with schools designated for A-TSI based on the cycle of improvement and facilitated networked learning communities to foster collaborative learning and problem-solving across those LEAs and schools.
Continuity of Education Equity Grants for A-TSI Designated Schools: In August 2020, PDE made available approximately $17 million to help 193 LEAs improve education services to approximately 180,000 students in schools designated for A-TSI under ESSA. Schools used the funding to increase student access to effective remote instruction and accelerate learning for student groups most severely impacted by COVID-19 (i.e., students with disabilities, ELs, students of color, students who are economically disadvantaged). Grants were calculated based on elements of the federal Title I-A formula, including the number of economically disadvantaged students, and other school enrollment data.
Compensatory Education Services for Students with Disabilities: In the fall of 2020, PDE distributed $15 million to 678 school districts and charter schools for remote services to students with complex needs who had the greatest difficultly accessing FAPE during COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The funding included $10 million from GEER I and $5 million from PDE's federal IDEA funding. Funds provided enhanced synchronous instruction to bolster remote services and supports for students with complex needs and provide services and supports to students with disabilities who experienced a loss in skills and behavior and/or a lack of progress due to mandatory school closures in the spring of 2020. LEAs used funds for contracted services, technology resources, assistive devices, personal protective equipment to support in-home services, learning platforms, and other appropriate resources. Grantees were also required to participate in mandatory teacher professional development on providing remote services to students with disabilities. Funds were not permitted to be used to support asynchronous services for students with disabilities.
Emergency Grants for Adult Basic Education: PDE awarded $500,000 of GEER I funding to 40 adult education providers to assist with implementing public health and safety plans and continuing operations through September 30, 2021. Each provider received a minimum award of $2,000 plus a corresponding percentage of the remaining $420,000. Providers were required to provide a portion of the GEER I funds to their subgrantees. Providers used the funding to purchase PPE, hand sanitizer and cleaning products/services, equipment and technology for virtual instruction, installation of barriers or other protective devices in building structures, and digital health applications to assist with contact tracing and monitoring of students.
Equity Grants for Postsecondary Institutions: Through PDE's Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education, 179 Title IV postsecondary institutions received a total of $24.3 million in GEER I funding to implement their Health and Safety Plans and resume instruction for the 2020–21 school year. Eligible expenses included, but were not limited to, safety and protective equipment, cleaning products, testing measures, equipment or technology for remote learning, installation of barriers or other protective devices in building structures, and digital health applications to monitor student symptoms. The list of
grant recipients and respective allocations is available on the PDE website. Allocations were based on the shares of total enrollments by each postsecondary sector and the number of socio-economically disadvantaged students served by the institutions (i.e., Pell-eligible students).
Emergency Support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Pennsylvania has two HBCUs: Lincoln University of Pennsylvania and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Both universities are based in Chester County, one of the areas of the state with highest number of COVID-19 cases. These institutions received a total of $3 million in GEER I funding to implement their health and safety plans for the 2020–21 school year. Cheyney received $750,000; Lincoln received $2.25 million. Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to, securing safety and protective equipment, cleaning products, testing measures, equipment or technology for remote learning, installation of barriers or other protective devices in building structures, and digital health applications to monitor student symptoms.
Connectivity and Remote Learning: $15 million was used to resource broadband, mobile hot spots, and other platforms to increase equitable access to remote learning for students of all ages. Building on efforts implemented by PDE during the 2019–20 school year, the commonwealth employed a multi-pronged approach that expanded access through school and state library networks and other partnerships, including the Pennsylvania Technical Training and Assistance Network (PaTTAN) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) regional affiliates in the state. Funding was distributed as follows:
- $1.4 million to expand the inventory of Wi-Fi hot spots and lendable technology through public libraries, increase connectivity to libraries, provide technology needed for library staff functioning, and enhance knowledge of what it takes to be a community anchor institution using a broadband toolkit;
- $100,000 to strengthen and expand the state's existing 24/7 online homework help through the POWER Library Chat with a Librarian service;
- $500,000 to create and deploy Open Educational Resources and other zero-cost materials for postsecondary students;
- $8.5 million to implement a statewide datacasting initiative with PBS;
- $3 million to distribute devices to be used in conjunction with datacasting technology for households without a connection to the internet (e.g., Raspberry Pi devices, data casting antenna, laptops); and
- $1.5 million to distribute accessible/assistive technology, including but not limited to software, tablets, tablet mounts, screens, smart pens, hotspots, and devices for K-12 students with exceptionalities in collaboration with the PaTTAN system.
GEER I funding was awarded by May 15, 2020. Grantees have until September 30, 2022, to expend the funds.
In December 2021, Pennsylvania received $2.22 billion in ESSER II funds. Due to significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases statewide and the subsequent shift to remote learning for nearly every LEA in the state, PDE allocated the full $2.22 billion in emergency relief to LEAs. No funding was reserved or set-aside for the SEA. Pursuant to Sec. 313 of the CRRSA Act, ESSER II funding was allocated to 667 school districts and charter schools based on their proportionate share of the Title I-A (FY 2020) formula.
Uses of ESSER I and II funding have varied widely statewide, depending on the needs of each LEA's respective education community. At the beginning of the pandemic, LEAs primarily used funding to implement their Health and Safety Plans and to prepare for remote learning in the 2020–21 school year. Expenses included professional development for educators, technology and connectivity, sanitization and cleaning supplies, expanded social-emotional supports, and more. As the 2020–21 school year progressed, many LEAs' funding priorities shifted towards taking steps to reopen school facilities for in- person instruction and assessing the individualized academic impacts of lost instructional time.
Since ESSER I and ESSER II were both one-time emergency funds, LEAs were encouraged to consider how CARES Act funding might interact with other federal funding and the role of enhanced
funding flexibilities to ensure strategic and sustainable use. PDE also urged recipients to keep equity at the forefront of planning by prioritizing investments for vulnerable students and families, including those living in the deepest poverty, students with disabilities, ELs, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
To what extent ESSER I and ESSER II funds have been awarded to LEAs and, if funds have not yet been made available to LEAs, when they will be. In addition, please provide any available information on the total dollar amounts of ESSER I and ESSER II funds that have been obligated but not expended by the SEA and its LEAs, including whether the SEA is able to track LEA obligations.
All ESSER I and ESSER II funding has been made available to eligible LEAs. As of June 23, 2021, $518.9M of ESSER I funds and $879.9M of ESSER II funds have been obligated but not expended by the SEA or LEAs. PDE tracks LEA obligations through the SAP Accounting System and the PDE eGrants system.
In supporting LEAs as they plan for the safe return to and continuity of in-person instruction and for meeting the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the extent to which the SEA is also using other Federal funding sources including but not limited to under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), IDEA, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), funding for child nutrition services, and McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and the funds to support the needs of students experiencing homelessness provided by section 2001(b)(1) of the ARP Act.7
Pennsylvania has used and will continue to use a variety of funding sources to support the safe return to and continuity of in-person instruction and to assist schools with meeting the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students and staff.
In June 2021, DHS, in collaboration with PDE, IUs, and local schools, began distributing
P-EBT federally funded benefits to the families of nearly 1 million Pennsylvania children who have attended school remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and who otherwise would have had access to free-and-reduced-price meals during the 2020–21 school year. Originally created through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to help families feed their children during the spring of 2020 when schools initially closed, the P-EBT program was re-authorized to cover the entire 2020–21 school year. P-EBT helps families cover the cost of breakfasts and lunches their children would have been eligible to receive for free or at reduced price through the National School Lunch Program. More than $1 billion in P-EBT benefits will be distributed to eligible families in Pennsylvania.
Following the Food and Drug Administration and CDC authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use in March, Pennsylvania used the commonwealth's initial dose allocations for PK-12 teachers and other school staff. Federal funding provided to DOH and PEMA was used to set up and staff vaccination sites statewide for educators.
Students experiencing homelessness tend to be chronically absent from school, to be less engaged, and to experience decreased social-emotional well-being due to housing instability. When COVID-19 closed schools in Spring 2020, the immediate elimination of social connections, services, meal programs, extracurricular activities, and in-person engagement exponentially impacted students experiencing homelessness, who were already vulnerable academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition, the shift to online and remote learning made it more difficult for educators to identify students in need and offer supports. PDE will use the $32 million it receives under ARP ESSER – Homeless Children and Youth to assist the state's regional Education for Homeless Children and Youths offices and other entities with identifying homeless children and youth, providing wraparound services in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and providing assistance to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities, including in-person instruction during the school year as well as in summer enrichment and extended learning programs.
During the 2021–22 school year, DOH will use the CDC ELC Reopening Schools Grant funding to implement a free, voluntary COVID-19 testing program to all K-12 schools in the commonwealth, apart from schools in Philadelphia County. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health received its own federal funding to implement a similar testing program. DOH is planning to offer pooled testing, individual diagnostic PCR testing, and rapid antigen testing at no cost to schools or families for the 2021–22 school year. DOH staff will be available to assist with the logistics, planning, and operations of this testing program, including a point of contact at each IU to assist with outreach and data collection for schools in their respective catchment areas.
7 The needs of students experiencing homelessness must be addressed (along with the other groups disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic) using the ARP ESSER SEA reservations and the required LEA reservation for the academic impact of lost instructional time; the funding provided to support the needs of students experiencing homelessness by section 2001(b)(1) of the ARP Act is in addition to the supports and services provided with ARP ESSER funds.