March Money Madness: Three Key Takeaways of the American Rescue Plan Act and K12 Finance
Shhhh…do you hear it?
It's the sound of $1400 #Stimmies (Twitter parlance for Stimulus Checks) making their way towards the bank accounts and mailboxes of millions across the United States.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law on March 11th, 2021— a year to the day after the World Health Organization first declared the coronavirus a pandemic. While countless Americans eagerly await their relief funds, Edstruments has been busy researching how ARPA will impact K12 funding. Below, we've compiled three major takeaways those interested in school finance should know.
1. In terms of K12 relief, the government CARES even more than before.
At $2.2 trillion (!), the CARES Act of 2020 had a heftier price tag than the $1.9 trillion ARPA. However, APRA has a far more robust pot of funding for elementary and secondary schools. Indeed, it allocates ~$125B towards K12 schools, nearly double the amount that the previous two pandemic relief acts provided combined. The funding will allow schools to upgrade their ventilation systems, increase social distancing capacity, and address learning loss and socio-emotional needs of students impacted by a year of deadly illness, climate catastrophe, and racial unrest. And that's not all; in addition to the $125B specifically earmarked for education, ARPA also sends $350B to states to use how they see fit. It's almost certain that governors will use some of these resources to address the disastrous disruption public schools have experienced since the early aughts of the pandemic in 2020 (also known as Year 0 B.C.E — Before the COVID Era).
2. High Needs Schools are Highest Priority.
As a condition of receiving recovery funds, State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are barred from cutting spending on high-poverty districts and students more than they do their wealthier counterparts. We've already discussed how districts often allocate more resources to schools serving their richest students than those with the highest needs, and lawmakers were determined to prevent this dynamic from creeping into their ambitious legislation. Multiple studies have suggested that high-poverty schools have suffered the most damage from pandemic disruption, so it's no surprise the new administration crafted safeguards to ensure equitable distribution of ARPA funds.
3. The funding helps determine what's in the cards for Cardona.
Biden promised to reopen schools within the first 100 days of his presidency— a bold move, given the powerful unions who supported his campaign are pushing hard for blanket teacher vaccinations before students return to campus (Biden has instructed all states to prioritize educators for vaccine eligibility). Compared to his predecessor, Betsy Devos, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has far more rapport with educators as a longtime teacher and principal. This will be an essential advantage as he balances teacher demands for vaccines with CDC guidelines, which advised vaccination not be a prerequisite for reopening.
Through ARPA, Cardona made good on his promise to give schools the resources to reopen safely. Continuing a track record of keeping on-the-ground educators happy could very well make or break his term. (Tensions are already beginning to flare again as the Biden administration continues to push standardized testing, much to the chagrin of teachers nationwide.) Cardona has also already pledged to make K12 funding an issue that will remain top-of-mind in a post-COVID era. You can be sure K12 professionals will be watching to see if he keeps his word even after ARPA and the pandemic become old news.
After his confirmation, Cardona (right) visited his hometown school in Meridien, Connecticut, with Becky Pringle (left) of the National Education Association (NEA) and Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady of the United States. (Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), was there as well, giving this middle school the education star-power of The Beatles on an otherwise quiet Wednesday.) Courtesy of Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News.IE
It is undeniable that wise K12 finance management is critical for providing the best support for educators and students alike. Grounded in deep expertise of school finance and user experience, Edstruments' education budget management and planning software helps school leaders make the most of their COVID relief funds at the district, site, and even classroom level. Subscribe and follow to learn more about how Edstruments streamlines school administration, improving equity and opportunity for K12 students in even the most unprecedented times.
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