Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing

What the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Means for Education Companies

May 14, 2021 Kevin J. Gray, President and Chief Content Officer of Westchester Education Services and Sara Kloek, Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA Season 1 Episode 13
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
What the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Means for Education Companies
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Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
What the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Means for Education Companies
May 14, 2021 Season 1 Episode 13
Kevin J. Gray, President and Chief Content Officer of Westchester Education Services and Sara Kloek, Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA

Kevin Gray and Sara Kloek, Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA (the trade association for the ed-tech industry) discuss the ARP, its allocations, and its impact on the ed-tech and education publishing industries.

Show Notes Transcript

Kevin Gray and Sara Kloek, Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA (the trade association for the ed-tech industry) discuss the ARP, its allocations, and its impact on the ed-tech and education publishing industries.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible]

Kevin Gray:

Welcome to Westchester words, Education, ed tech, and publishing. I'm Kevin Gray, a nd today I'll be speaking with Sara K loek, who is the senior director of education policy at SIIA. SIIA is the trade association for the e d t ech industry, and prior to joining SIIA, Sara worked for the U S Department of ed and the US House of Representatives. Sara, we've met a couple of times, it's always great to talk to y ou, and it is a pleasure to have you here today.

Sara Kloek:

Thanks for having me.

Kevin Gray:

Of course. So today we want to dive into , uh , and get an understanding of the American Rescue Plan. And so I'm wondering , um, if you could give us an overview of the K-12 funding portion of that plan.

Sara Kloek:

Sure. There's a, there's a lot of numbers that I can throw out. Um, there's, there's also a lot of acronyms that are thrown around when we're talking about legislation that has come through DC. So maybe it would be helpful for me to level set on the three big spending packages that went through over the past year or so to, so folks can get familiar with some of the language. Um, the first one was passed last spring. That's the CARES act. Many people are familiar with with that , um, legislation. Uh, there was a bill that was also passed in December of 2020, which also includes funding for K-12. That's referred to in a number of different ways, but for the purposes for this podcast, I'll just refer it, refer to it as the bill that was passed in December, 2020. Um, I can say HR 133, the continued , uh , consolidated appropriations act, but it's easier for me to say December, 2020, so I'll just refer to it as that. Um, and then the most recent package that we're talking about today was the American Rescue Plan, which was passed in March of 2021. And for some context, the cares act , um, included $13.5 billion for elementary and secondary schools and included a fund that is called the elementary and secondary school emergency relief fund, E S S E R. And I'll use that acronym a couple of times. The bill that passed in December included $54.3 billion for the E S S E R fund, and in the American Rescue Plan, which Pat , which again, passed this March of 2021 included $122.8 billion for K-12 education through the E S S E R fund. Um, so we've seen a lot of money flowing to schools with very broad allowable uses this, this ranges from, and it , it differs a little bit for each package, but, but more generally anything that can be purchased , uh, because of the elementary and secondary education act or Perkins or IDEA , um, those are generally allowable uses. There are other allowable uses in these bills as well. Um, and we can get into that a little bit more if you, if you're interested, but there's a lot of freedom for schools to choose how they want to spend this money. And like I said, the most recent package, the American Rescue Plan with $122.8 billion flowing to K-12 schools. Um, that's a large amount of money. Um, I , I, and we'll see, we're just going to start seeing how schools are going to be spending that in the coming year .

Kevin Gray:

Okay, good. Yeah. Thank you. That's really helpful. So , um, is this funding allocated and implemented in any specific way? Anything that, that we should know about how, you know, how, how it's rolled out to the States, how it's rolled out to the districts and then is any portion of that funding earmarked for specific spends ? Does some portion of it have to go to , um, let's say PPE and another portion for recovery or what , what does that look like?

Sara Kloek:

Sure. So, so again, there's a lot of numbers included in here, but , um, I will, I will share with folks, the U S Department of Education has a really great fact sheet , um, that hopefully you can, you can make sure that your listeners have a link to that. Um, goes, it goes into this in a little bit more detail , so you don't have to listen to somebody throw out a bunch of numbers, but so more generally the $122 billion is going to flow to the K-12 schools through the E S S E R fund, which was first established by the CARES act. $800 million of this money is going to be reserved for providing unhoused children and youth with wraparound services. So that's off the top and then not less than 90% of the remaining funds are going to be sent directly to local education agencies, school districts, County boards , um , depending on the state, no like no later than 60 days after the state receives these funds. Um, there's a couple places where the state can reserve funds. Some of that being , um, they can reserve 1%. I believe it's 1% for just state administrative costs, but there's , uh, there's specifically three state level activities that they can reserve funds for 5% of the total ESS E R allocation for the state can be used for addressing, and I'm , I know this term is controversial, but this is the term that's used in the bill. So 5% of the E S S E R fund should be used to address learning loss. 1% will be used for summer enrichment programs, and 1% will be used for comprehensive afterschool programs and that all of those interventions should respond to students' academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student groups. So children with disabilities, low-income family, English learners, et cetera. And then, then, and then you get down to the, to the district, County, however it's organized in your particular state. And there are the districts need to reserve 20% of what they get to address, and again, I'm using the term that the legislative language uses 20% of the funds , um , will be reserved to address learning law .

Kevin Gray:

Okay. And are there any stipulations that a school or district has to follow if they received the funds? Are there any sort of strings attached to this and sort of mandatory requirements other than the percentages?

Sara Kloek:

Like I mentioned, it's a pretty broad schools are pretty, um , have a lot of freedom in how they're able to use these dollars. Um, they have to use them by September of 2020, or obligate them by 2023, September, 2023, but here's some examples of things that they can use the money for. In addition to all of the things that they can use federal money for in ES EA, IDEA, Perkins , um, and other federal bills. Here are some , some of the allowable uses include improving air quality purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the schools, purchasing education technology, like hardware, software, connectivity, assistive and attack adaptive equipment that aids in , um, a student's interaction between the classroom instructors, providing mental health services, hiring counselors, addressing learning loss, implementing activities related to summer learning or school programs. There's there again, like purchasing, purchasing other supplies to training and professional development on sanitizing and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases. There's a lot that schools can do with these funds. Um , there are some maintenance of effort requirements for the state where they can't just take away school funding and say that this the, the dollars that the federal government is just going to replace what the state government would have spent on schools. The department of education just came out with guidance this week on that, but , uh , that's probably more than we want to get into right now. We can spend four hours talking about maintenance of effort.

Kevin Gray:

No, that's, that's really good to hear. Cause I know one of the concerns was made in previous recessions, you know, state funding, state income tax would go down and then the schools would, would bear the brunt of it. But it sounds like the, the States are not able to just say, well, you got your federal funds, so we don't need to fund quite as much, which is , uh , I think that's a really important distinction,

Sara Kloek:

Right? And one of the , one of the things that we are watching out for that was included in the bill that we're waiting for more guidance from the Department of Education on is there was a requirement for the maintenance of equity , um , which is a new term that hasn't been in federal legislation before that requires districts and states to maintain equitable schooling for students. Like I said, we're still waiting for more information on what the Department of Education is going to say on that, but it's probably something to pay attention to when you're talking about what sort of strings are attached when we get more guidance on that. I think it will be interesting to see what schools and states are going to need to do.

Kevin Gray:

That's interesting. Um, that's another one that I think when, when we get some more information, we can probe pretty deeply. You mentioned the CARES act and the December, 2020 packages as you called them. And obviously other than a funding difference or the level of funding, are there any substantial differences between this package and what were in those acts?

Sara Kloek:

There's very minor differences. The December, 2020 bill included a couple of extra bullet points, but the depart on allowable uses, but the Department of Education has said, these are pretty much the same. The department did come out with a letter in, I believe it was early January telling schools that they needed to spend their E S S E R fund one, which is the money from the CARES act before they spent the ESS E R fund two dollars, which is the December, 2020 bill. So I don't know if they're going to be spending the CARES act money, and then the 20 December, 2020 bill money, and then the American rescue plan money. But that's sort of what I would expect because they need to obligate the dollars from the cares act much sooner than the other two.

Kevin Gray:

Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. Um, I guess one final question. This is probably what a lot of our listeners , uh, are, are tuned in for what does this mean for, you know, a lot of, a lot of Westchester clients, folks who make ed tech and ed publishing materials for classrooms. Is there, are , are there opportunities here for , uh, educational material providers , uh , in this funding?

Sara Kloek:

Sure . Yeah. All of the, all of the bills have, or all of the, of the now laws do include the purchase of education technology, whether that's hardware, software, assistive, or adaptive , um , technology or equipment is included in an in allowable use. So federal funds can be used to purchase that sort of ed tech , um , whether it's software or hardware, schools are receiving a chunk of change , um, a large chunk of money to address all sorts of all sorts of issues. Uh, the federal government has looked at these bills as robust and giving local decision-makers the control over how, how they need to use them. We know that some areas are hit harder by some parts of the pandemic , um, and other areas are hit by other things. Um , whether that is internet connectivity, whether that is students not having access to adequate nutrition or food, the local decision makers are going to be able to decide what they need. And I know a number of , uh , local decision makers are looking at this as an opportunity to really do a, do an overview of what, how their school is working when it comes to technology or curriculum. Um, or just more generally, how are they helping students succeed and looking to find tools to make sure that their students are able to learn and grow as they see they need to be able to be doing in 2021.

Kevin Gray:

Yeah, I'm guessing that there's probably , uh , almost certainly a lot of lessons learned from the shift to digital, the shift to remote learning and, and , uh, that probably identified some gaps that the schools would be eager to, to deal with. Um, do you know if this, if this funding can also be used for , um, print materials, teaching materials, professional development, or is it , um , pretty limited to , um, the ed tech or can it be used for publishing?

Sara Kloek:

It can be, it can be used for anything, anything that you can use, anything that is an allowable use under ESSA , um , elementary and secondary education act , um, that is an okay purchase. So what whatever is purchased with say Title 1 dollars or , um, the, any Title 2 professional development or Title 4A um, all of those things are acceptable purchases through the American Rescue Plan dollars.

Kevin Gray:

Excellent. All right. Thank you, Sarah. This was really, really helpful. I think this hopefully provided a good overview and we'll provide a link to the resource that you mentioned.

Nicole Tomassi:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Westchester words. Sara's colleague Victoria Akosile will be a panelist for the Westchester Education Services webinar, The State of K -12 Education, 2021 taking place on Wednesday, May 19th at noon Eastern. Other panelists will include K athy M ickey of Simba information and D enise C obb-Williams of the Walton County school district. You can find more information and register for this webinar on the homepage of our website, Westchester education services.com. Follow us on your favorite streaming p latform t o be notified about new episodes when they become available and to listen to previous episodes, you can also find all of the episodes plus additional bonus content that's been shared by some of our guests at our website, westchestereducationservices.com. In the meantime, send us an email at [email protected] That's Westchester [email protected] to share your thoughts or comments about today's discussion and tell us what content you'd like Westchester to cover in future episodes. Join us next time when I'll be speaking with Cev Bryerman of Publishers Weekly about the state of virtual events i n the p ublishing industry. Until then, stay safe, be well, and stay tuned. Until then stay safe, be well and stay tuned.