July 28, 2021

MDE Decides How They Will Spend ARP Money

By Krista Kaput

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) is sending $1.3 billion in federal funding for K-12 COVID recovery to be spent in Minnesota over the next few years. Local districts are still deciding how to invest their allocations, but state funds will begin rolling out soon. On June 30, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) submitted a plan to the U.S. Department of Education detailing how they intend to use the funds.

Educators, parents, and students can expect to see numerous new programs launch using ARP funds, and should start asking local leaders now what will be available in local communities to meet student needs.

Here is a  breakdown of the five areas where MDE will be spending their ARP dollars. 

Review: What is the American Rescue Plan? 

In mid-March, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion ARP Act, which includes $170 billion in relief for education. Of the $123 billion allocated for K-12 schools, Minnesota received $1.3 billion

90% of those funds ($1.18 billion) are going directly to local districts and charter schools through the Title 1 formula, which is based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Plans for these local funds are due on October 1, so parents still have plenty of time to reach out to local school boards and superintendents to weigh in.

The remaining 10% ($132 million) went to MDE. Most of the funds are flexible, but at least a portion must be used for learning recovery, after-school programs, and summer enrichment.

In March, EdAllies and twelve partner organizations submitted recommendations to ensure targeted investment in learning recovery for students most impacted by the pandemic, from partnerships with culturally affirming community organizations to selection of high-impact strategies. While many of these recommendations were adopted, there will still be a need for better tracking of impact and ongoing need and feedback loops with the community—elements less clearly laid out in the plan. 

Major Investment in Learning Recovery

MDE took a targeted approach to investing their ARP allocation—choosing a few areas for significant investment, supplemented by a handful of statewide priorities. Most notably, MDE is allocating $66 million for learning recovery directly to schools with unmet need, using a formula based on how many students they serve from historically underserved populations—students of color, Indigenous students, students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals, students receiving special education services, English Learners, and students experiencing homelessness. 

Any school that receives this funding, must choose from a list of 18 evidence-based strategies. The list includes practices like expanding access to early learning programs, expanding access to tutoring, increasing student support personnel, and expanding after-school learning activities. 

After School and Summer Programming 

MDE is also directing $26.4 million for afterschool and summer programming, with a particular emphasis on underserved students and those who did not consistently participate in distance learning: 

  • $13.2 million for after-school programs will be administered by Ignite Afterschool—the Minnesota affiliate of the National Afterschool Association—which coordinates the afterschool partnership network.
  • $13.2 million will support summer enrichment grants. 

For both pots of funding, funding will support programs through community organizations—and 50% will be targeted to culturally specific community organizations. 

Other Supports for Schools 

MDE is also allocating $26 million to other grants and activities intended to improve programming and supports for students, including: 

  • $5 million for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: includes strategies like trauma-informed teaching, LETRS literacy training, and data literacy professional development; 
  • $5 million for full-service community schools, intended to coordinate resources to mitigate both the academic and non-academic challenges facing students, families, and communities; 
  • $4 million for expanding access to rigorous coursework, addressing Minnesota’s large gaps in access for AP, IB, PSEO, and concurrent enrollment; 
  • $4 million for trauma-informed and anti-bias instructional practices; 
  • $3 million for non-exclusionary discipline training; 
  • $2 million for mentoring new teachers; and 
  • $1.5 million for early learning. 
State Support 

$10 million will be dedicated to building and refining MDE systems and to better support families, educators, and students. The funding will be allocated as follows: 

  • $6 million for Ed-Fi, a major new statewide data system that will not only streamline practice but finally allow for meaningful data disaggregation; 
  • $2 million to create a MDE public engagement division; and 
  • $2 million to MDE for administrative needs, including a COVID-19 project manager, a COVID-19 response assistant, and a school nurse.  

MDE will also use $3.6 million to administer and monitor grants, as well as technical assistance and data gathering for how schools and community organizations are using ARP funds. 

Monitoring Impact

ARP is a historic investment, and there is no doubt that it will increase access to programs and support for students. But it remains to be seen whether Minnesota will reach all students and meet the evolving needs of families and communities. It will be essential for advocates, parents, students, and educators to track what happens in the coming year to ensure the money is being used in the way it was intended: to benefit traditionally underserved students. We will continue to track what we’re hearing in the community and monitor critical data points in order to advocate for needed improvements at MDE and the legislature. Locally, now is the time to reach out to decision-makers to ensure investments are closely tied to student needs.

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