Education insights | News
3 ways to use the American Rescue Plan to purchase K-12 edtech
May 16, 2021
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has enacted three relief packages to help Americans weather the economic challenges, with a large percentage earmarked for schools. As you might expect, each package has come with its own stipulations for how the money should be allocated, spent, and tracked.
The latest package, called the American Rescue Plan (ARP), was released in April 2021 and is the largest relief package yet, providing nearly $122 billion to help safely reopen and operate schools and address the impact of coronavirus on students through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER III, so called because the previous two relief acts also included ESSER funds).
This act includes an additional $3 billion for special education, $850 million for American territories and commonwealths, $2.75 billion to support non-public schools, and additional funding for homeless children and youth, Tribal educational agencies, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives.
Beyond the higher spend, there are some other key differences to the ARP that are worth noting. Here’s a rundown of a few ways it differs from the previous packages.
What’s different about the ARP
Allocating Funds for Learning Loss and Evidence-Based Programs
Probably the most significant difference between the ARP and the previous two relief packages is that the ARP has more stipulations on how education funding can be used. States must reserve 5% of their funds to address learning loss, and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) must reserve 20% of their allocation for that purpose. This learning loss intervention must also address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on underserved and underrepresented students.
Learning loss refers to the loss of knowledge or skills or a regression in academic progress — thought to be one of the biggest long-term concerns created by pandemic-era distance education.
In addition, the package stipulates that states must allocate 1% of their funds to evidence-based summer learning or summer enrichment programs and another 1% to evidence-based comprehensive afterschool programs.
Tighter Deadlines for SEA to Allocate Funds to Local Education Agencies (LEAs)
While the previous two relief packages gave State Education Agencies (SEAs) a year to award funds to any recipients, the ARP gives them only 60 days to award the 90% of funding that’s going to LEAs.
Extension of Maintenance of Effort (MOE) Rule
The ARP effectively extends MOE requirements through 2023, ensuring schools maintain a consistent level of support for education as they did before the pandemic, as a percentage of their overall spend. The government released more in-depth guidelines on this requirement and how it compares to the MOE requirements of the previous packages.
New Maintenance of Equity Requirements
While both previous packages included Maintenance of Effort requirements, this is the first to also include Maintenance of Equity requirements to prevent state budget cuts from disproportionately impacting high-poverty school districts and low-income students. This requirement prohibits state education agencies from cutting per-pupil spending on high-poverty LEAs at a rate steeper than overall cuts in per-pupil spending across all LEAs. The same applies downstream to LEAs as they set budgets for schools — they may not cut per-pupil spending or staffing on high-poverty schools at a rate steeper than overall cuts to all schools in their area.
SEAs are further prohibited from reducing funding for the 20% of LEAs in their state that have the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students. These measures are all intended to help address the disproportionate economic impact coronavirus has had on low-income populations across the country.
3 Key EdTech Considerations for Schools Implementing ARP and Other Relief Funds
So with these restrictions in place, how should schools allot their funds? Here are a few key considerations as you make edtech purchasing decisions:
- What technology will you need to support your evolving K-12 learning environments?
If you’re re-opening in person for the first time, you’ll need to consider how social distancing might affect your technology (e.g. require you to purchase more devices or utilize screen broadcasting software). If you will use a hybrid learning environment for the foreseeable future, it’s important to also think about education continuity between on-campus and at-home experiences, cybersecurity, and device security — and ideally to make purchases that will still be useful beyond the pandemic.
Look for solutions that do double duty to support hybrid learning but can also be useful in the classroom to keep students organized, focused, and secure when they’re using digital devices.
- How will you manage your technology?
With more devices and more dispersed learning locations come new challenges in device management. Consider who will manage your students’ devices and apps (e.g. the teacher) and how to ensure that job doesn’t take up too much of their time.
Choosing software and systems that are easy to update from a central dashboard (e.g. Chromebooks) will make management much less challenging.
- What additional resources do you need to address learning loss?
With 20% of funding going toward learning loss, it’s important to have a plan of attack for getting students back up to speed using evidence-based methods that are tailored to students’ individual needs.
Personalized learning is made much easier with the right software tools in place, including the capability for teachers to view students’ screens, interact with students discreetly as they work, and place students in collaborative groups. You can also aid student learning by using software suites that support the 4Cs (Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking) through creative lessons, such as Google Creativity apps.
Understanding Your State’s Funding
As with previous relief packages, funding will be distributed to schools through their state and local education agencies. To learn how much your state received, how much must go to LEAs, and how your state plans to use its discretionary 10%, visit this tracker (ARP funds are labeled as ESSER III).
If you’re a school leader with ideas on how the money should be spent in your district, get in touch with your LEA, superintendent, principal, or school board, or look for public forums being held in your area to ensure your voice is heard and your students’ needs are considered. And if you’re responsible for submitting an application for funds to your LEA or SEA, check out our 8 tips for grant writing.
Learn more about how Lenovo Education is committed to helping schools and districts tackle the challenges of safely reopening schools by offering education solutions that extend beyond the device to support education continuity.
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