This story originally published online at N.C. Policy Watch. 

The U.S. Department of Education has approved the state’s spending plan for $1.2 billion in aid from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP-ESSER) Fund.

The money is the second installment of $3.6 billion awarded to North Carolina to help K-12 students recover from pandemic-related disruptions, and to improve academic outcomes.  The state received the first $2.4 billion in March.

The state will use the award to launch “evidence-based initiatives” to support schools statewide, including $30 million for high-impact tutoring, $19 million for a competency-based assessment and platform, and $35 million for a competitive grant program for summer-school and after-school extensions, according to an NC Department of Public Instruction news release.

“North Carolina’s plan for this funding isn’t just about recovering from the pandemic – it’s about rebuilding and re-envisioning the education landscape in our state,” said State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.

Districts and schools are receiving 90 percent of the state’s total $3.6 billion allocation, based on the same proportions used for allocating federal Title I funds keyed to census poverty estimates.

The remaining 10 percent, or $360 million, will support statewide initiatives to help schools and students recover from pandemic-related disruptions and to also improve outcomes long term.

Here are the highlights of North Carolina’s spending plan:

Total ARP ESSER allocation for North Carolina: $3,601,780,364

Top Priorities within North Carolina’s plan:

• Academic recovery in reading and math.

• Addressing the social-emotional health and well-being of children throughout the state.

Highlights of North Carolina’s Plan:

• Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021: Public schools in North Carolina are required to offer in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

• Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) will consider specific evidence-based interventions, including $30,000,000 for high-impact tutoring statewide, $19,000,000 for a competency-based assessment and platform to be used across the state, and $35,000,000 for a competitive grant program for school extensions.

• Investing in Expanded Afterschool Programs: NCDPI has proposed allocating ARP ESSER funds to support extended learning recovery after school enrichment.

• Staffing to Support Students’ Needs: The Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration is working with health care professionals to improve health and educational outcomes for children in North Carolina. The team is currently working to expand an existing model that provides elementary schools with access to pediatricians via telehealth technologies. Early indications show this telehealth option reduces barriers to care for students resulting in improved health outcomes for children, reduced chronic absenteeism, and a decrease in the impact of health care-related costs on parents or caregivers.

• Community Engagement and Consultation: NCDPI held stakeholder engagement sessions in July and August 2021. NCDPI received formal approval from the State Board of Education to create an ARP ESSER Advisory Group. The ARP ESSER Advisory Group will convene regularly and provide suggestions to improve implementation and further development of the ARP ESSER State Plan.

Source: NC Department of Public Instruction

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