What We’ve Learned From State ARP Funding Plans for Schools
October 19, 2021
A closer look at state plans for spending ARP funds on school heath
In the aftermath of the pandemic, Congress allocated funding for schools in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) . This unprecedented influx of over $122 billion in federal aid has created an historic opportunity for states and school districts to invest in student health and equity. This is the third round of COVID-19 relief funding for K-12 schools totaling over $190 billion. Now that states have developed plans on how to use ARP funding to support K-12 schools, it’s time to take a closer look at how states are planning to spend this money.
Opportunities for Detailed Guidance
States are required by the federal government to develop plans detailing how they will use these funds. As of October, the U.S. Department of Education has approved plans from 37 states for spending ARP funds. These plans offer a high-level overview of key needs and broad strategies to address those needs. However, many fail to include specific methods and corresponding budgets. That means there is still significant opportunity for state stakeholders to advocate for how these strategies are implemented more specifically. There still remain many ways this new funding can be used to successfully address student health.
While all state ARP plans address school health in relation to COVID prevention and mitigation, a number of states take their commitment to health and wellness a step further and detail thoughtful and creative ways to address student health using this new funding. Below are examples of bright spots that highlight how some states envision using COVID relief funding to support school health:
In partnership with the Department of Behavioral Health, Washington D.C. will expand its Comprehensive School Based Behavioral Health System to broaden access to clinical services in public schools across the district. D.C. is also making investments that support Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to screen and identify at-risk students and refer them to appropriate support. The D.C. Office of State Superintendents of Education (OSSE) is encouraging LEAs to use ARP funding to add to school staff and train existing staff to meet student physical and mental health needs. As part of the D.C. grant application and technical assistance resources for LEAs, the district included a specific budget code as “Mental Health Services and Supports for Students.”
The state of Ohio is drafting guidance to LEAs on budget considerations for ARP funding that maximizes support for underserved students to address their mental health and social emotional needs. Beyond extending learning opportunities, this guidance will direct LEAs to use funds to support nutrition needs, mental health partnerships and school-based health centers. Ohio is also beginning to pilot school-based telehealth services as part of the Rural Ohio Project to offer access to health services for students in underserved areas.
Oklahoma’s Department of Education has created a School Counselor Corps, which will provide funding to LEAs to hire new school counselors, licensed mental health professionals and licensed recreational therapists. Oklahoma has reserved approximately $35 million in order to fund 50 percent or more of the salaries of 150 school counselors and 150 licensed mental health professionals to serve LEAs.
The Illinois Department of Education is allocating $150 million in ARP funds toward competitive grants to schools and local organizations for the creation of community partnerships to support the social-emotional and mental health needs of students and staff. Funding will be prioritized for districts that serve students most greatly impacted by COVID-19. Illinois also plans to appropriate $58 million for mental health professional development at state and local education agencies.
Nevada is designating money to support hiring 100 school-based mental health professionals as well as a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) coach to assist districts regarding additional interventions for students. Nevada also plans to work with contractors to ensure equitable access to behavioral health services and to build out new school-based services. Funding will be used to provide training on restorative justice practices for district and school staff and school resource officers, as well as to develop a module for school counselors and social workers that analyzes equitable access to behavioral services.
The New Mexico Public Education Department is collaborating with the state’s Human Services Department to revise its state Medicaid plan, allowing reimbursement by Medicaid for mental health services provided to general education students who qualify beginning in fiscal year 2023.
In order to support states and school districts in using ARP funding to advance school health and wellness, Healthy Schools Campaign has developed two guides. These resources provide a roadmap for using the aid to ensure schools across the country support the critical connection between health and learning. In addition, our partners at FutureEd, CCSSO and CLASP have all provided detailed analyses of state plans for ARP funding and past ESSER funding. If interested in seeing your state’s ARP plan, you can find it here at the DOE website.
Healthy Schools Campaign will continue supporting states and school districts across the country, including through its Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative and its work with Chicago Public Schools, in leveraging this historic opportunity to support student and staff health.