- State education agencies can now request a 14-month extension to spend American Rescue Plan money just as they were allowed to do under the first two allocations of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, the U.S. Department of Education announced in a letter to state grantees Monday.
- If approved, states and districts would have the flexibility of spending ARP funds 14 months beyond the Jan. 28, 2025, deadline or until late March 2026.
- With the Sept. 30, 2024, ARP obligation deadline — or when school systems must commit to spending the money — only a year away, states and school districts are hurriedly looking at their options for depleting the last and largest portion of the COVID-19 recovery money. Monday's letter will help in this decision-making process, said education organizations.
In the letter, the department said states and their ARP subgrantees, including districts, making extension requests will need to explain how a longer spending runway would contribute to acceleration of student learning and expand on a continued path of academic recovery. Districts will need to make extension requests through state education agencies, which will then seek permissions from the Education Department.
The department previously said it would consider requests for ARP spending extensions, and that certain ARP-supported services could continue after the obligation and liquidation period, but Monday's letter details the specific approval process for a longer ARP spending timeline.
An FAQ and extension request template will be available this fall, the letter said. ARP funding for K-12 is $121.9 billion.
Education administrative organizations said they were grateful for the guidance.
“Based on input from our state members, CCSSO has advocated with both Congress and the Department for prompt release of an ARP liquidation extension package to allow states and school districts to adequately plan and manage the process of concluding ESSER," said Carissa Moffat Miller, chief executive officer of the Council of Chief State School Officers, in an email. "We appreciate the Department’s responsiveness on this matter and believe its announcement will support improved planning and clarity for states and the field.”
AASA, The School Superintendent Association, said it too was pleased the Education Department was addressing this issue, but it voiced concerns about the potential volume of requests states may receive from districts requesting extensions and that the Education Department would need to review, according to a statement on its website.
AASA also questions how the department will vet the requests for extensions and whether requests for non-academic spending will be eligible for consideration.
Seven states and the District of Columbia got permission to take additional time to spend down money from the first round of federal COVID-19 relief funds directed to districts, known as ESSER I, James Lane, then-senior advisor in the Education Department Office of the Secretary, told K-12 Dive in an email earlier this year. The states and D.C. asked to delay $6.6 million — or about 0.05% — from the total $13.2 billion allocated.
The ESSER I spending deadline was Jan. 28, 2023.