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Just In: Ahead of School Summit, Biden Announces Delivery of $81 Billion to Aid States in Reopening Classrooms, Launch of National ‘Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative’

By The 74 | March 24, 2021

Miguel Cardona (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

Earlier this month in a USA Today column, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona laid out plans for a National Safe School Reopening Summit, to “bring students, teachers, families, community organizations and school leadership together — not only to get the critical feedback we need to make reopening as seamless as possible for students and staff, but also to work together to solve problems.” 

That gathering is now set to kick off at noon eastern today, and to feature President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris among other presenters, along with several case studies from specific schools across the country. (We’ll be livestreaming the three-hour event via The 74’s Newsfeed right here, and reporter Linda Jacobson will be livetweeting the proceedings

Ahead of the summit, this morning the government has released key details behind several announcements that will be discussed — including the immediate disbursement of relief funds to all 50 states to aid in reopening classrooms for in-person instruction, the creation of a new summer learning and enrichment “collaborative” and the launch of a national tour during which Secretary Cardona will visit reopened campuses.

Here is this morning’s announcement in full from the Education Department: 

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President Biden will announce $81 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan to be released  today to states for school re-opening

Today, at the National Safe School Reopening Summit hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, President Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will announce additional steps  the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to help schools safely and quickly reopen and meet the needs of  all students.  

President Biden will announce that $81 billion of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds will be released  today to all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to support their  efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in person learning, keep schools open once  students are back, and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students.

Secretary Cardona also will announce the launch of a new Summer Learning & Enrichment  Collaborative, a partnership between the Department and the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, to help states use ARP funding to develop high-quality summer learning and enrichment programs for all students, with a focus on addressing the needs of student groups  disproportionately affected by COVID-19.  

Today’s announcements are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to provide states, schools, and communities with the resources and support they need to return to in-person learning safely  and quickly, and achieve the President’s goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100  days of the administration. Secretary Cardona also will announce that as part of this effort, he will travel to local school districts over the coming weeks to listen and learn from them, and to help more schools  and districts in their efforts to reopen and stay open. The Secretary will then report back to the White House on what he learns. 

“It is my top priority to get students back in the classroom for in-person instruction safely and quickly,” said Secretary Cardona. “I continue to hear from students and educators across the country who are eager to get back to in-person learning, and these resources will help schools not only reopen safely, but also to support students who were falling behind even before the pandemic. As states and schools use American Rescue Plan funds to reopen their doors, the Department of Education is committed to helping them build  successful programs that will reach students most in need this spring, summer, and into the fall.” 

More details about the announcements include:

President Biden to Announce $81 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funding Available Today 

President Biden will announce that $81 billion in American Rescue Plan funds will be made available for states today to support their efforts to safely return to in-person instruction as expeditiously as possible  this spring and meet the needs of all students. The American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) fund provides $122 billion in relief for Pre-K-12 schools to  reopen safely and address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of their students. As of today, two-thirds of the funds — $81 billion in total — will be made available to states immediately. The Department of Education is encouraging states to develop and implement plans to immediately utilize that  funding to get more schools opened safely this spring and work to close the gaps in education equity that  the pandemic has exacerbated. The remainder of ARP ESSER funds will become available after states submit the plans they are developing and implementing for using ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen  schools and meet the needs of students to the Department. 

Secretary Cardona to Launch the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative 

Too many students have experienced interruptions in learning over the past year of the pandemic and have experienced effects on their social and emotional wellbeing through time apart from friends and community. Summer presents a key opportunity to accelerate learning for students and provide new  avenues for students to safely engage with each other and in fun activities centered around their growth  and development. 

During the Summit, Secretary Cardona will announce the launch of the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative and call on states to use ARP funding to build effective summer programs to help address  the lost instructional and extracurricular time students may have experienced as a result of the pandemic, particularly for underserved communities. The Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative is a professional learning community that brings relevant stakeholders to the table to discuss how to build  effective plans for high-quality, evidence-based summer learning and enrichment. The Collaborative, in  partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, will  launch in April 2021 and bring education leaders and experts together as they develop their plans for this  summer, with a focus on students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The Collaborative will help build capacity for states and school districts, in partnership with other key  stakeholders, to use ARP ESSER funds to identify and implement evidence-based summer learning and enrichment strategies that meet the needs of all students. The Collaborative will build and deepen partnerships across states, districts, and among educators, parents, philanthropy, and non-profit partners to  scale up and sustain successful programs. More than $1.2 billion of the ARP ESSER funds will be used  by states, school districts, and schools to offer evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs,  and states and districts may use billions of dollars more for these vital programs.

Secretary Cardona to Launch School Reopening Tour  

Secretary Cardona will also announce that he will travel to local communities in the coming weeks as part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to support states, schools, students, parents, and educators as they  navigate returning to in-person learning. In the weeks following the Summit, Secretary Cardona will visit schools that have successfully reopened and stayed open to listen and learn from their experiences; he will  also visit schools that are facing roadblocks and challenges as they work to reopen to provide support and  technical assistance. He will meet with educators, students, and district leaders during the tour and discuss  reopening strategies including implementing CDC’s recommended mitigation measures for K-12 schools,  ensuring reopening efforts are advancing equity, and supporting students and communities most impacted  by COVID-19.  

Secretary Cardona will share what he is hearing and learning on the visits with other states and districts and across the Biden-Harris Administration to help more schools reopen quickly and safely and reach the  President’s goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his administration. 

His engagement with schools will help to highlight what’s working in school reopening across the  country, share out key lessons with other schools who are engaged in the same effort, and help to leverage  the Administration’s whole-of-government approach to COVID-19 response to make sure we are rapidly  and safely accelerating toward reopening all schools. 

These announcements are part of a series of steps the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to help  schools reopen, including releasing Volume 1 of the COVID-19 Handbook, creating a “Safer Schools and  Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse” that will be released next month, calling on states to prioritize vaccinations for Pre-K-12 teachers and staff, and directing billions in funding to states for COVID-19 screening testing for educators, students, and staff in schools.  

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