HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania will receive $1.6 billion in one-time pandemic relief to support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning after the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) approved Pennsylvania’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan. With the additional $1.6 billion, the state will have received a total of $5 billion in ARP ESSER funds to help Pre-K to 12 schools and equitably expand opportunities for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 has impacted all of us, and I commend Pennsylvania’s schools for prioritizing the health, safety, and well-being of their communities,” said Gov. Wolf. “The completion of the state plan for ARP ESSER funding is critical to help schools meet the unique needs of educating students at this time while keeping school buildings safe when students return to the classroom in the fall.”
The plan prioritizes developing student and educator and staff mental health supports; strengthening access and equity of remote learning, which has led to instructional and learning inequities; and addressing staffing shortages and other staffing challenges.
To receive the remaining $1.6 billion, PDE submitted a state plan explaining the education needs in Pennsylvania, the use for the funds, and how schools will be supported in their plans to use ARP ESSER funds. This state plan is based on stakeholder feedback and addresses the specific needs of educators, students, and school communities.
“Our school communities are in need of these resources to invest in instructional materials, equipment, facilities, transportation and more, and we are pleased to make these funds available to them,” said Education Secretary Dr. Noe Ortega. “I am grateful to the department and our stakeholders who have worked beside us to ensure Pennsylvania is properly prepared to handle the upcoming school year.”
The ARP Act of 2021 directed 90 percent of the state’s total allocation—about $4.5 billion—to school districts and charter schools. Under the ARP Act and Act 24 of 2021, PDE must use the remaining $500 million of ESSER funding to implement interventions that address learning loss, support summer enrichment and comprehensive afterschool programs, and assist school entities that do not receive direct ESSER allocation such as career and technical schools and intermediate units. Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will have to describe how they intend to implement an equitable and inclusive return to in-person instruction.
PDE’s ARP ESSER Guidebook includes detailed guidance on centering equity in LEA plans to address learning loss and explains the state’s rationale for focusing such efforts on acceleration rather than remediation. 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.
As the state developed the plan, stakeholders such as policymakers, students, school leaders, professional educational organizations, and educators were consulted to help identify critical needs of school communities. Consultations included focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, and online public comment.
Throughout the 2020-21 school year, PDE regularly provided technical assistance and guidance to LEAs to support instruction while navigating the pandemic. This included through the PDE online resource, the Roadmap for Educational Leaders.
PDE will continue to support LEAs as they prepare for and navigate the upcoming school year. This includes through the latest chapter of PDE’s Roadmap for Education Leaders; Accelerated Learning through an Integrated System of Support. This toolkit includes a professional learning series for school leaders and educators to help address students’ learning loss and other issues caused by the pandemic.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education’s website at www.education.pa.gov.
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