• The San Juan Daily Star

US Education Dept. approves PR plan for using ARP funds

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

By The Star Staff

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced on Thursday the approval of Puerto Rico’s plans for the use of funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER-American Rescue Plan Emergency Aid for Elementary and High Schools) and provided the remaining funds.

“I am pleased to announce the approval of the Puerto Rico plan. It is encouraging to see in these plans how educators plan to use funds from the American Rescue Plan to provide critical support to schools and communities,” Cardona said in a written statement. “Passage of these plans allows states to receive additional ARP funding to keep schools open for full-time face-to-face learning; meet the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students; and address disparities in access to educational opportunities that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The island’s designated education secretary, Eliezer Ramos Parés, noted that “during the last five years, the educational system of Puerto Rico has been affected by natural disasters and, like the entire nation, by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“These events have led us to rethink what we do every day and develop a new educational model that is innovative and that truly supports all of our students,” he said. “This unique opportunity presented by these funds promises to empower school principals, teachers, parents, and most importantly, students. We are making strategic investments that will have long-term benefits for our students and educational communities.

The Puerto Rico plan details how ARP ESSER funds are being used and planned to be used to maintain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunities for students who need it most, particularly those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help states reopen schools and return students to school, the federal Education Department has released the Back-to-School Roadmap, which provides resources and support to make it easier for students, parents, educators, and schools to return to the classroom during the current school year. It also describes how federal funds support the safe and sustained return of face-to-face learning. ARP funds can be used to further the purposes of the roadmap.

Earlier this year, the federal agency distributed two-thirds of ARP ESSER funds, $81 billion, to state education agencies. The remaining third of the funds will be released once the state plans are approved. Puerto Rico has received nearly $3 billion in ARP ESSER funding, and Thursday’s approval of its plan will result in the release of the remaining $990 million. Today’s approval means 47 state plans for the use of ARP ESSER funds have been approved to date.

The state ARP ESSER plans approved by the U.S. Education Department, including that of Puerto Rico, show how states are using federal pandemic resources to support safe classroom instruction and meet the social, emotional, academic, and mental health needs of students, with a particular focus on the students most affected by the pandemic.

Local initiatives include COVID-19 vaccination programs, expansion of tutoring services, and teacher support and retention efforts.

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