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American Rescue Plan funds one year later: Support for afterschool, summer learning

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American Rescue Plan funds one year later: Support for afterschool, summer learning

A little more than one year ago, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law, providing billions in funding to support communities and youth impacted by the pandemic, and naming afterschool and summer learning programs as one strategy to invest in to support young people. So have funds been invested in such programs? What are they accomplishing?

While funding is still rolling out in some communities, and evaluations of funded programs in other communities are not yet available, we are seeing trends emerge and strong examples of the ways students are being supported thanks to investment of ARPA funds in afterschool and summer enrichment. With funds available for expenditure for the next several years, there is ample time to shape continued investments, especially at the local level.

Funding Available

ARPA included approximately $500 billion in funds across a wide range of programs that can be used in part to support young people during the hours they are out of school. With more than 24 million students from ages 5 to 18 unable to access afterschool programs, these funds have the potential to close opportunity gaps and reconnect millions of young people.  Funds included in the law that can be used specifically for afterschool and summer programs: 

  • $8.45B available from State Education Agencies (SEAs) through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III), including: 
    • $1.22B set-aside for summer enrichment
    • $1.22B set-aside for comprehensive afterschool programs
    • 5%, approximately, $6.1B, for learning loss recovery with comprehensive afterschool, summer learning, and extended school day and school year all mentioned
  • $22B provided to school districts for learning loss recovery strategies including comprehensive afterschool, summer learning, and extended school day and school year.
  • $39 billion for child care divided into Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) discretionary funds and child care stabilizations funds, which can include school-age care provided afterschool or during the summer, which will flow through state child care agencies. 
  • $1 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service through AmeriCorps for AmeriCorps positions to help address learning loss recovery and other purposes
  • $350 billion for state and local governments through the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund from the Department of Treasury that can be used in part for youth development programs afterschool and during the summer, learning loss recovery, child care and other purposes.

While some progress has been made in investing these funds, states, localities, school districts, and community-based organizations still have work to do, planning, allocating, and implementing the funds. Depending on the funding stream, decisionmakers have until 2023 or 2024 (for child care and education funds) to December 2026 (for state and local fiscal recovery funds) to obligate and spend the ARPA funds.

The funding provides an opportunity to build on the supports that community-based afterschool and summer program providers have been providing students during the pandemic, from providing remote learning help and enrichment to meals, to mentoring and well-being check-ins. These programs draw on decades of research that show afterschool and summer programs boost academic, social, and emotional learning. Schools have an opportunity to leverage support from community-based afterschool and summer programs to help students re-engage, re-connect, and recover.

Child Care Funds

ARPA child care funds have resulted in grant programs at the state level that can be accessed by afterschool providers in some states (see this blog for an overview of that process). For example, Hawaii is offering an extra $650 base award per child for children in licensed before/afterschool programs or the state's A+ afterschool programs, with additional add-ons for employee retention. Idaho is offering 3 rounds (Nov, Feb, and April) of grant opportunities to licensed or certified afterschool providers. Connecticut has funds set aside specifically for programs agreeing to increase staff compensation.

Corporation for National and Community Service Funds

The $1 billion in funding through the Corporation for National and Community Service is being used to make service more accessible and inclusive, increasing the diversity, cultural experiences, and number of AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Senior volunteers serving in communities across the country, and to help stabilize existing national service programs and expand into new communities. In some places, afterschool and summer programs that host AmeriCorps or AmeriCorps VISTA members are being supported with these funds.

State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

The State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the Department of Treasury are in the process of being obligated. A recent survey from the National League of Cities found that  cities leveraged  federal CARES and ARPA dollars to invest in afterschool and summer learning opportunities for youth, with the number of cities reporting such investments rising from 28 in the peak pandemic period to 47 during pandemic recovery. According to their report, “NLC expects to see these investments continue and grow, given that communities have until 2024 to make their budgetary decisions about how to spend their ARPA dollars.”

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III) – State Education Agency level

The state-level American Rescue Plan ESSER III funds set aside for comprehensive afterschool and summer enrichment programs present an excellent opportunity for state education agencies, either on their own or in partnership with statewide afterschool networks and other stakeholders, to invest in community-based afterschool and summer providers. A number of states are doing just that, providing a wide range of examples of how local afterschool and summer programs can be supported and expanded to meet the needs of students and families:

  • 50 states and territories have ESSER plans approved by the federal Department  of Education as of early January, 2022
  • 31 state plans propose grant funding for comprehensive afterschool programs that includes eligibility for community-based programs and school-community partnerships 
  • 23 states propose eligibility for school- community partnerships as part of summer enrichment grant programs 
  • $2.7 billion of ESSER III funding has been invested to date at the state level into comprehensive afterschool and summer enrichment programs through community-based programs and school-community partnerships 

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III) – Local School District level

At the local level, American Rescue Plan ESSER III funds were allocated to Title I eligible school districts. . Twenty percent of the funds received by each district are specifically designated for learning loss recovery with comprehensive afterschool, summer learning, and extended school day and school year all mentioned in the law as specific strategies. Each district was asked to solicit community input and feedback on a local plan for the use of their ESSER III funds. While a significant percentage of district plans mention funding afterschool, summer learning, or year-round out of school time programs, the specifics of the plans vary widely.

The legislation requires that comprehensive afterschool and summer learning programs be evidence-based, including employing strategies like community partnerships, parent engagement, and staff trained in positive youth development, a preliminary review of a range of district level plans from across the national finds that many do not include the detail required to determine if evidence-based practices are being employed. We will continue to do a more in-depth review of local ESSER plans to determine how many district plans include comprehensive, evidence-based programs, and how many are working with community partners; versus how many districts might be limiting their afterschool support to offering homework without enrichment or any comprehensive supports. Given the limitations of what is provided in district plans, the following trends, based on a scan of the 3,200 local school district ARP ESSER plans included in the March 15, 2022 Burbio dataset, should be viewed with the understanding that a deeper analysis is needed:

  • 528 school districts (about 17 percent) include year-round (afterschool and summer) programs, allocating a total of $1.5 billion
  • 954 school district plans (about 30 percent) include afterschool programs, allocating a total of $645 million
  • 1,483 school district plans (about 46 percent) include summer learning programs, allocating a total of $1.4 billion
  • A combined 2,965 school districts (about 93 percent) have pledged a total of $3.5 billion for year-round, afterschool, and summer programs through fall 2024
  • Note that local district plans mentioning afterschool, summer and year-round programs vary considerably in what the proposed programming looks like: not all are comprehensive, some utilize community partnerships, many do not. Additional analysis continues to determine how many districts’ plans include comprehensive, evidence-based programs, and how many are working with community partners; versus how many are only providing homework help after school without holistic supports.

While much of the story is yet to be written and challenges persist around staffing, accessing funds to develop true school-community partnerships, and navigating federal grant requirements, the potential for transformative change remains as communities work to harness the federal ARP dollars into quality, comprehensive afterschool and summer learning opportunities that can ignite the passions of millions of young people.  

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BY: Erik Peterson      08/25/23

Senate appropriators propose level funding for 21st CCLC in FY 2024

The Senate Appropriations Committee released and marked up their Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) bill on July 27, 2023. The bill proposes $224.4 billion in total funding for Fiscal Year 2024. The Nita M Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center Initiative...

BY: Erik Peterson      07/31/23

House Appropriators mark-up FY 2024 Education spending bill

This week, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee pushed the FY 2024 appropriations process forward by holding multiple subcommittee mark-ups. On Friday, July 14, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS-ED) and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its...

BY: Erik Peterson      07/14/23

Congress passes deal to raise debt limit and constrain spending

UPDATE: June 2, 2023: Late on the night of June 1, the U.S. Senate passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act by a vote of 63-36, about 24 hours after the House passed the bill with a bipartisan vote of 314-117. The President is expected to sign the bill into law today. On May 31, the House passed the...

BY: Erik Peterson      06/01/23

March madness = Budget & appropriations process kickoff!

This year, early March means the release of the president’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year and the beginning of the FY 2024 appropriations process in Congress. Here's what we know so far about how this year’s process may roll out in the coming year.  On or...

BY: Erik Peterson      03/01/23

STEM education update: Good news and looking ahead

In the final weeks of 2022, Congress passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill to fund every agency through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2023. The bill was the product of weeks of negotiations and defense spending, supporting the CHIPS and Science Act and some policy issues attached to the bill took...

BY: Anita Krishnamurthi      02/23/23

Mammoth spending bill includes support for afterschool, summer, mentoring, and more

In December, the 117th Congress approved a $1.7 trillion bill that included a $40 million increase for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative and additional increases across the US Department of Education important to afterschool programs, public schools,...

BY: Erik Peterson      01/23/23