Funding for education is always a huge issue in the state and county budgets, and in North Carolina, on Monday, Sept. 13, education funding got a big boost from the federal government.

On Sept. 13 the US Department of Education announced that the North Carolina plan for spending American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) money was approved and released the remaining $1.2 billion to the state.

The ARP ESSER funds will be used to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and expand the opportunity for students who need help the most, particularly those who have been most effected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In all North Carolina is receiving $3.6 billion in ARP ESSER funds and the approval of the state plan allows the distribution of the final $1.2 billion.

US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “I am excited to announce approval of North Carolina’s plan.  It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to school and communities, particularly as we look ahead to the upcoming academic year.”

North Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said, “North Carolina’s plan for this funding isn’t just about recovering from the pandemic – it’s about rebuilding and re-envisioning the education landscape in our state. This plan is a product of thoughtful collaboration across the department and among key partners, including he General Assembly, with a focus on strategically investing money to meet the unique needs of every student.  The newly-established Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration is prepared to direct these funds in ways that will support teachers, uplift students, and engage our community so we can foster a resilient recovery, where students are presented with better outcomes and new opportunities.”

The plan calls for the state to use $30 million for high impact tutoring statewide, $19 million for a competency-based assessment and platform and $35 million for a competitive grant program for school extensions.

Funds will also be used to improve health and educational outcomes for students by expanding an existing model that provides elementary schools will access to pediatricians via telehealth technology.