Without an extension to the deadline by which districts must spend American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, officials say they will have to scale back pandemic investments while students are still in desperate need of additional academic and social-emotional supports.
A majority of school superintendents surveyed by the School Superintendent Association (AASA) said that after federal COVID-19 emergency funds run out in September 2024, their districts will need to cut or scale back summer programming and end personnel contracts with specialized staff, such as counselors, social workers and reading teachers.
- 57 percent reported they will reduce or end summer learning and enrichment offerings currently being provided to students.
- 53 percent reported they will have to end contracts with specialist staff, such as counselors, social workers and reading specialists.
- 44 percent reported they will have to stop compensating staff for working additional hours for the extended school year/day programming they offer.
However, 49 percent of respondents reported that a later deadline to spend ARP funding would allow them to retain recently hired staff and extend recently added programs and supports for students.
“Superintendents know best how to maximize the academic impact of the funding. It costs nothing for Congress to give districts additional time to extend the additional resources they have in place — reading specialists, tutoring programs, enrichment offerings and social-emotional supports — for students for an additional two years,” Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director, said in a statement. “We call on Congress to extend this arbitrary deadline and enable students to get the additional time with these professionals and programs they need to recover from the pandemic.”
The findings — part of a multi-series survey focused on how district leaders across the country are utilizing ARP funds to address student learning recovery — also sought information about what issues districts are experiencing in spending ARP funding and how they would change their spending decisions if they had more time to spend federal COVID-relief funds.
Similar to recent research released by CSBA, results showed districts remain committed to improving instructional practices, expanding learning opportunities and learning time, hiring staff and addressing the social-emotional needs of students regardless of state, district size or locale. A lack of available staff continues to pose a challenge.
Additionally, efforts to renovate school facilities and improve ventilation are also hampered by factors outside of the control of local educational agencies. Projects have been stymied by supply-chain issues, worker shortages and inflation, according to superintendents surveyed — 48 percent of whom indicated that the 2024 deadline presents an obstacle to completing these facilities projects.
AASA was among the national organizations and district leaders that sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in August calling on the U.S. Department of Education to expedite guidance regarding an 18-month extension for the spending of ARP funds beyond the Sept. 30, 2024, obligation deadline.