On April 21, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released its State plan template, which requires state educational agencies (SEAs) to describe how they will utilize funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) fund to safely reopen schools and provide students with the necessary support. The Department has indicated that students experiencing homelessness must be thoughtfully included in both SEA and LEA ARP ESSER spending plans, and that these funds are to be used in conjunction with American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth (ARP HCY) funds to ensure the needs of students experiencing homelessness are adequately met.
The first release of ARP ESSER funds came last month, totaling $81 billion. The remaining funds, which total $41 billion, will become available to SEAs, pending the Department’s approval of State plans. The submission of these plans also satisfies the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act’s ESSER-II 6-month reporting requirements. The deadline for submission of State plans is June 7, 2021.
Below are some of the areas that states and school districts must consider the inclusion of students experiencing homelessness:
- SEAs must describe 2 to 3 of the highest academic, social, emotional, and/or mental health needs for students experiencing homelessness, amongst other underserved student groups for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year, if applicable, and the 2021-22 school year.
- SEAs must describe how the SEA engaged in meaningful consultation with stakeholders who represent the interest of students experiencing homelessness, and those representing the interests of other underserved student groups, and incorporated their input into its plan.
- SEAs must describe how they, along with local educational agencies (LEAs), are using or have used previous COVID-19 relief funds to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness.
- States must describe how they are coordinating the use of funds from other federal programs, such as the McKinney-Vento Act, ARP HCY, IDEA, and child nutrition programs, to address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students.
- SEAs must describe what they will require LEAs to include in their plans, consistent with ARP ESSER requirements, including how they plan to address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students, particularly those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, students with disabilities, and other underserved student groups.
- SEAs must describe how they will ensure that LEAs engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders representing the interests of children and youth experiencing homelessness, and those representing the interests of other underserved student groups, including children and youth in foster care, children with disabilities, etc.
- SEAs must indicate the number of students experiencing homelessness enrolled in school for the most recent time period available, and the number of these students enrolled in remote learning, the number of students enrolled in a hybrid model of learning, and the number of students enrolled in full-time in-person learning. This information also to be disaggregated by race/ethnicity, and other underserved student groups.