U.S. Dept of Ed Launches New Tool for States to Share How K-12 School Districts Have Used $122B in COVID-19 Funds

By B.N. Frank

Some American school districts have gone to great lengths to protect students and staff from COVID-19, utilizing billions in gov’t relief funds; but is it all being spent wisely?  A new online tool allows users to look up how much relief money was spent by whom and for what.

From Gov Tech:

Online Tool Shares How Schools Spent Pandemic Relief Funds

The U.S. Department of Education has created an online system for gathering data on how COVID-19 relief funds have been used by K-12 schools in each state, which will be shared with other schools and the public.

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new tool for states to share how K-12 districts have used $122 billion in COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), intended to re-open schools for in-person instruction and tackle learning loss brought on by school closures during the public health crisis.

According to a news release from the department, the goal of the ARP Partnership Assistance, Transformation and Heightened Support (ARP PATHS) tool is transparency, as well as providing insights into best practices for K-12 districts as they grapple with growing achievement gaps from lost instructional time, student mental health needs, the digital divide and staffing shortages, all affected by the pandemic.

Launched in partnership with the National Comprehensive Center, ARP PATHS features six sections based on an ARP ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) plan application submitted by states and approved last year by the department, where states can indicate policy implementation status and describe the impact of policies and purchases made with the help of relief funds.

“American Rescue Plan dollars are already being used across the country to address immediate needs, such as staff shortages, and supporting students’ mental health, as well as long-term goals like hiring school counselors. The ARP PATHS tool will help elevate and track those efforts,” the department said in an email to Government Technology.

According to the department, education officials can use ARP PATHS to share plans that could serve as “promising” solutions for K-12 systems across the country still deciding where to devote remaining funds. The tool will also influence internal planning and resource allocation for state education officials, and inform stakeholders, such as students, families, educators and civil rights organizations, about what the funds have accomplished. As part of a larger strategy to help schools make the most out of funding, officials said the department will also monitor each state’s plans.

“Through ARP PATHS, states and districts will be able to more effectively and transparently communicate their efforts and share promising practices so that, across the country, we can do more of what works to ensure that our students, schools and educators thrive,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in an announcement.

Examples of impact highlighted by the department include the Vermont Agency of Education using $1 million to create a Vaccine Incentive Program, which awards incentives to schools that achieve a student vaccination rate of 85 percent or higher. As of Jan. 14, the department said, 75 percent of the state’s residents ages 12-17 received at least one dose of the vaccine.

In North Carolina, Wake County Schools used district ARP funding to provide bonuses for full-time employees to keep schools open, while Gaston County Schools hired nurses for all of its 54 campuses, according to the department.

Other efforts noted by the department include Tennessee’s use of funds to provide access to intensive tutoring over the next three years, with a goal of expanding access to targeted academic support for 240,000 students to address the effects of lost instructional time during COVID-19. Similarly, the department highlighted efforts in Arkansas to create the Arkansas Tutoring Corps, which recruits tutors for students who’ve experienced learning loss.

In addition, the department said, Dayton, Ohio, is using its funding to hire “two times as many teachers in classrooms for grades 1-3,” and for math specialists to support students in grades 4-6, to combat learning loss in math.

“States and districts are making historic investments in educational systems using the ARP stimulus funds,” Allison Crean Davis, director of the National Comprehensive Center, said in a public statement. “In our role partnering with educational leaders and organizations throughout the nation, (we are) looking forward to working with the department to build upon the ARP PATHS tool with associated resources and supports to help states understand how these investments are improving outcomes for school systems and our nation’s students.”

Activist Post reports regularly about COVID-19.  For more information, visit our archives.

Image: Pixabay

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