Feds OK Michigan COVID relief plan for K-12 schools, releasing $1.2B in funds

By: - October 8, 2021 11:00 am

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Michigan’s plan for spending federal COVID-19 relief money on K-12 schools got the approval Friday from the U.S. Department of Education — which will unlock a final $1.2 billion in funding.

“I am excited to announce approval of Michigan’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 enter the upcoming academic year.” 

Michigan’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan is 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.” The department announced Michigan and Wyoming got the OK for their plans and will receive the remaining ARP ESSER funds. 

“Our state ARP plan will help Michigan students better rebound from the disrupted learning that they experienced during the past year,” said Michigan’s State Superintendent Michael Rice. “I am very pleased that Secretary Cardona and the U.S. Department of Education approved our state plan and released the remaining $1.24 billion in federal funds for Michigan schools to improve our schools in myriad ways for children.” 

Key parts of Michigan’s Plan:

Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021: All traditional public school districts are operating predominantly in-person this year and all students have access to in-person learning.

Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has promoted collaborative partnerships between districts and local health departments to conduct vaccination clinics. In partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the MI Safe Schools Testing Program supports schools in providing COVID-19 testing to allow for safe in-person learning. DHHS is providing over $24 million in additional federal funding to school districts and local public health departments to hire 220 Health Resource Advocates to effectively support school-based COVID-19 testing and reporting.

Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time and Expanding Summer and Afterschool Programs: School districts that receive state reserve funds will select evidence-based interventions that address the academic and social emotional needs of their student populations that are most impacted by the pandemic. Districts will complete additional budget information and documentation on how they will use ARP ESSER funds for students disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

MDE will require Local Education Associations (LEA) to submit their plans for the use of the funds by Dec. 14.

“This pandemic has been especially challenging for our educators, students, and parents,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing). “As students return to in-person learning, parents and educators are facing many challenges, including gaps in learning and the safety of students and teachers in the classroom. This investment from the American Rescue Plan will provide our schools with the resources they need to tackle these challenges head on.”

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. Michigan is receiving $3.7 billion total in ARP ESSER funds.

A total of 41 ARP ESSER state plans have been approved since June. 

Other school initiatives from the President Joe Biden-Vice President Kamala Harris administration:

  • Launched the Return To School Roadmap to provide key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outline how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning.
  • Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook. 
  • Announced a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have been financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as universal indoor masking.
  • Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and childcare workers. 
  • Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for pre-K-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.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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