Welcome relief in the form of a federal funding boost of $39 billion is now helping after-school and summer programs to reopen and stay open.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, passed in early March, provides a total of $123 billion to support families, K-12 schools, and the childcare sector.
What does ARP mean for summer and after-school programs?
The financial lifeline is specifically for "evidence-based activities" to address learning loss. These activities can be summer learning programs, extended day, or after-school programs.
This financial package is welcome news to the childcare industry that suffered through the pandemic. Skyrocketing costs and declining enrollment put many programs and childcare centers at risk of closing. Many switched to a virtual program delivery, a novel concept in many cases. The result was many failed to attract the same number of participants as the in-person program.
As parents head back to work, after-school programs are now ramping up again and returning to full capacity.
Now that financial relief is on its way, the challenge is to find the best way to use these funds and track where they eventually go. Better data collection will enable programs to spend on services that offer the most value.
Key provisions of the ARP Act - Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund
- ESSER funds are given to State Education Agencies (SEA) based on the proportion of Title I, Part A funds the SEA received from the education department in the most recent fiscal year. See ARP Act Section 2001(c).
- SEAs must reserve at least five percent of funds for “evidence-based activities” to address learning loss, which could include summer learning programs, “extended day comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs.” See ARPA Section 2001(f)(1).
- Local Education Authorities (LEAs) that receive funding from SEAs must reserve at least 20 percent of funds to address learning loss through the same methods as those allowable at the SEA level for students disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s disruption to education. They include racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners, migratory students, students experiencing homelessness, and students in foster care. See ARP Act Section 2001(e)(1).
- SEAs must reserve at least one percent of their funds to implement evidence-based after-school programs to meet the needs of the student groups named above. See ARP Act Section 2001(f)(3).