The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday, July 14, the approval of Oregon’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Oregon’s plan details how the state is using and plans to use ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the department distributed two thirds of the ARP ESSER funds, totaling $81 billion, to 50 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining third of the funding to states will be made available once state plans are approved. Oregon is receiving more than $1.1 billion total in ARP ESSER funds, and the approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $374 million. Additionally, the department approved plans for Tennessee, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Ohio. Two weeks ago, the department approved the plans for six states and the District of Columbia.
“I am excited to announce approval of Oregon’s plan,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities, particularly as we move into the summer and look ahead to the upcoming academic year. The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to quickly and safely reopen schools for full-time, in-person learning; meet students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs; and address disparities in access to educational opportunity that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The state plans that have been submitted to the department lay the groundwork for the ways in which an unprecedented infusion of federal resources will be used to address the urgent needs of America’s children and build back better.”
“Oregon’s ESSER state plan provides opportunities to deepen partnerships while addressing the challenges brought on by COVID-19, poverty, systemic racism, wildfires, loss of power, and the hundreds of ways we struggle to respond to the wholeness of students, families, educators, and school leaders,” said Carmen Xiomara Urbina, deputy director of Oregon Department of Education. “Thank you to President Biden and Congress for allocating these resources for our schools and Secretary Cardona and the U.S. Department of Education team for their hard work going through all the state plans. The historic investment in education from Oregon lawmakers in the form of the Student Success Act led schools and school districts to engage with students, families, and communities in new ways and the ESSER state plan leverages this model to ensure communities are involved in determining the best use of these federal funds. The resilience and strength of Oregon’s communities and schools are remarkable, and this funding is a significant step on the road to recovery.”
“Oregon families and educators have their eyes set on the safe reopening of schools this fall. Our students deserve significant investment to address the learning losses as well as the social and emotional toll they endured in the past year and half due to the pandemic,” Sen. Ron Wyden said. “After fighting to make sure Oregon gets the resources to recover with the passage of the American Rescue Plan, I am heartened to see the Department of Education approve my home state’s plan. Oregon’s schools will see more than $1 billion in federal investment for the success of our state’s youngsters after an extremely difficult and unprecedented period.”
“I am pleased the Department of Education approved Oregon’s plan to use the emergency relief funds the state was awarded through the American Rescue Plan so we can get our elementary and secondary education system back on track in the wake of the pandemic,” Rep. Kurt Schrader said. “The unprecedented disruption to the traditional ways of learning took a significant social and emotional toll on our students, families and staff. Our communities of color and students with disabilities were especially impacted, as existing inequities in educational opportunities were further worsened with virtual learning. Now as we get closer to the start of a new school year, these resources will prove invaluable to Oregon schools as they work to address these deep issues and welcome students back in the classroom this fall.”
“Our schools are important to families, communities, and the economy,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. “It’s critical that students and educators have the support they need to recover from the pandemic and build a better future. I worked hard in Congress to get robust funding for our education systems, and I’m grateful that the Department of Education has approved Oregon’s plan to use resources from the American Rescue Plan. These funds will help address unfinished learning, make sure our schools are safe for all to thrive, close the digital divide, and more.”
The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the department, including Oregon, show how states are using federal pandemic resources to support safe in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students—with a focus on the students most impacted by the pandemic. For example:
• Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: Returning to in-person instruction and the safe operation of school facilities are Oregon’s highest priorities. To support schools with safe operations and returning to in-person instruction in the 2020-21 school year, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) partnered with the Oregon Health Authority and used CDC guidance to develop the Ready Schools Safe Learners (RSSL) Guidance. This guidance included both requirements and recommendations on health and safety protocols. The health and safety aspects of RSSL applied to all Oregon districts, public charter schools, and private schools, and was updated regularly throughout the pandemic as Executive Orders from the Governor and guidance from the CDC changed. In addition, ODE created supplementary supports, aligned with the RSSL, to communicate, respond to, and understand the on-the-ground needs of its schools. ODE will continue to provide guidance, technical assistance, and professional development to support the return to in-person instruction.
• Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: ODE will select evidence-based interventions to support accelerated learning to expand opportunities to students currently and historically underserved by the education system. This will include the selection of evidence-based intervention to support Career, College and Community Readiness by working with districts and other educational partners to reengage high school students who have been disconnected from their schools or communities as a result of COVID-19. ODE also will design tools and resources for teaching and learning, such as formative assessment practices; professional learning opportunities for educators on learning acceleration, culturally affirming and sustaining pedagogy, and technology-enabled instruction; and culturally responsive instructional materials.
• Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs: ODE will develop a process to grant districts and educational entities funds to identify, create, and employ effective summer programming outreach strategies to recruit and retain students who missed the most in-person instruction and students who did not consistently participate in remote instruction during the 2020-21 school year. ODE also will establish a process with ARP ESSER funds to create high-quality out-of-school programs through the application of evidence-based practice to address unfinished learning and increase opportunities that elevate relationships, enrichment, and well-rounded learning that matter to students.
A total of 40 states have submitted their ARP ESSER state plans to the department. The department is reviewing the plans expeditiously and is in contact with states to ensure their plans meet all necessary requirements in order to access the remaining funds, as outlined in the ARP. The department also is in contact with states that have not yet submitted plans, the vast majority of which are due to state board of education or legislative review requirements.
The distribution of ARP ESSER funds is part of the department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to reengage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and build our education system back better than before. In addition to providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the ARP to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools and meet the needs of all students, the Biden-Harris Administration also has:
• Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook.
• Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
• Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care workers. As of the end of May, an estimated 84 percent of teachers and school staff were fully vaccinated.
• Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for PreK-12 educators, staff, and students.
• Launched a series of Equity Summits focused on addressing inequities that existed before but were made worse by the pandemic.
• Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved communities.
• Developed a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse elevating hundreds of best practices to support schools’ efforts to reopen safely and address the impacts of COVID-19 on students, educators, and communities.
In addition to the actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to reopen schools, the president has proposed critical investments through his Build Back Better agenda that will enable schools to rebuild stronger than they were before the pandemic, such as investing billions to build a diverse educator workforce, expand access to pre-K to all families, and invest in school infrastructure, among other provisions.