Federal Legislative Report 117-03

Delivered via email: March 12, 2021

Congressional Update

On March 10, 2021, Congress approved a nearly $1.9 trillion pandemic recovery bill dubbed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP).  The measure provides approximately $122 billion for K-12 public schools, $3 billion for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), $362 billion for state and local fiscal relief, and includes policy provisions impacting the education sector more broadly. The ARP also includes $7.172 billion to help schools connect students and teachers to home broadband and devices and $2.75 billion in dedicated funding for nonpublic schools in a similar manner to the emergency relief bill passed by Congress last DecemberThis memorandum summarizes ARP’s topline funding allocations and several key policy changes, including modifications to the Education Stabilization Fund.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

ARP provides an additional $122.775 billion, via the existing ESSER fund, through   September 30, 2023.

  • Funding Distribution: Funding for K-12 education in ARP is allocated to each State Education Agency (SEA). These allocations are determined using the same federal-to-state formula prescribed by Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). States must sub-grant at least 90 percent of their funding allocation to school districts based on the state-to-local funding formula prescribed by Title I of ESSA.

  • State Funding: States are required to set-aside funds from their grants for the following purposes: at least five percent to address learning loss; at least one percent for evidence-based summer enrichment programs; and at least one percent for evidence-based, comprehensive afterschool programs. States may also reserve up to 0.5% for administrative costs with the remainder of these funds intended to be used for statewide activities identified by the SEA.

  • Maintenance of Effort / Equity: This legislation includes a maintenance of effort provision requiring states to provide at least as much funding from their budgets for K-12 and postsecondary education in Fiscal Years (FYs) 2022 and 2023 proportionate to the state’s previous investment averaged over FYs 2017, 18, and 19. In addition, ARP includes a “Maintenance of Equity” provision that prevents states and local school districts from disproportionately.

  • Local Uses of Funds: LEAs receiving ESSER funding from ARP are required to use at least 20 percent of their total allocation to address student learning loss through evidence-based interventions and ensure that these activities are responsive to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.

Cardona Confirmed to Lead U.S. Secretary of Education

On Monday, March 1, the Senate officially confirmed Miguel Cardona as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. The Senate voted 64-33 in favor of Cardona’s nomination and Vice President Kamala Harris formally swore him in the following day. In an op-ed published on Tuesday, Secretary Cardona announced that he plans to host a national summit on reopening school buildings and outlined several related areas that he plans to prioritize in the near-term.

This Federal Legislative Report was written with assistance from the National School Boards Association.