Weekly NewsBrief 4/19/21 - 4/25/21
ARP ESSER application template, rules released for states – By Charles Hendrix, District Administration
The U.S. Education Department on Thursday released a state application template for the ARP ESSER funds along with a proposed set of priorities for states in receipt of the funds.
ED previously released $81 billion of the $122 billion in ARP ESSER funds in March, with the caveat that the remainder of funds would be released upon state educational agency completion and submission of the application.
“Today, I am pleased to release the state plan template for the ARP ESSER Fund, which is designed to promote comprehensive planning by SEAs and LEAs for the effective use of ARP ESSER funds to reopen schools safely this spring; support sustained access to in-person instruction throughout the spring, summer, and into next school year; and to address the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students,” wrote Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in Letter to Chief State School Officers. “Once the department has approved an SEA’s plan, the department will make the SEA’s remaining ARP ESSER allocation available for use, totaling another $41 billion in funding nationwide.”
USDA extends free meals through next school year – By Ali Tadayon, EdSource
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue reimbursing schools and childcare centers for free meals to all students regardless of their income through the 2021-22 school year, USDA officials announced Tuesday.
Meal service waivers such as the “Seamless Summer Option,” which made it possible for California districts to distribute millions of grab-and-go meals to students since campuses closed due to Covid-19, will be extended through June 2022, according to a USDA news release. Advocates say the extension comes at a pivotal time for food-insecure families.
“At a time when millions of families continue to face financial strain, hunger and hardship, these waivers allow schools to reach more kids with the food they need,” said Lisa Davis, senior vice president of national child hunger organization Share Our Strength. “With them, schools are able to cut through red tape and allow kids to eat for free.”
In addition to the flexibility of not having to check students’ income eligibility for free meals, districts are able to set up flexible meal times based on student schedules and needs. Districts can also serve meals to students outside normal school hours and deliver meals to students’ homes or other places instead of requiring them to pick up food at schools.
NY recycles state test questions, casting doubt on how helpful results will be – By Christina Veiga, Chalkbeat
Eighth graders at art teacher Leah Clark’s South Bronx school cracked open their English state exams this week and began answering questions when one student raised his hand.
“Miss, we’ve already done this,” Clark recounted him saying.
Students in third through eighth grade across New York City taking standardized tests this week found themselves reading familiar passages. Exams contained multiple texts from previous years’ tests, which were included in the state’s own publicly available prep materials, many teachers reported.
Officials with the state education department confirmed that New York reused questions, saying there was no time to field test new questions while awaiting word of whether standardized exams would be required this year. (The state, along with many others, requested a federal waiver for administering the exams but was denied.) Repeating questions also saved money, though officials said that wasn’t a main driver of their decision.
The recycled questions cast doubt on the usefulness of this year’s results, and call into question the Biden administration’s rationale for giving the tests: to gauge how much ground students have lost in a school year profoundly disrupted by COVID-19. On top of the reused questions, it remains to be seen whether a critical mass of students in grades three through eight even take the exams. This year, students in New York City must opt in to do so and the tests are only being offered in-person — a high bar, especially for the nearly 70% of city students learning remotely full time.
Murphy proposal would allocate $50 million to help some New Jersey students afford college – By Todd Defeo, The Center Square
Gov. Phil Murphy wants to allocate up to $50 million to help New Jersey residents attend college who may not be able to afford it.
The so-called Garden State Guarantee (GSG) would grant New Jersey residents with an annual gross income of $65,000 or less two years of tuition- and fee-free education at a four-year public college or university in the state.
The governor’s $44.8 billion 2022 fiscal year budget proposal includes $45 million for the push – in the form of aid to all 13 state colleges and universities using the Outcomes-Based Allocation – and an additional $5 million for “program implementation” is available if needed.
“Since day one, we’ve taken meaningful steps toward addressing college affordability and attainability for students at all income levels,” Murphy said in a news release. “With the Garden State Guarantee initiative, we’re making another critical investment to ensure that every student has access to an affordable, high-quality postsecondary education, which in return will create a highly skilled workforce and a stronger, fairer, and more resilient economy.”
Governor Murphy Highlights Garden State Guarantee