- What does the American Rescue Plan Act mean for K-12 schools?
- Use funds wisely—invest in the right technology
- RingCentral’s unified communications platform: the right choice for K-12 schools
In March 2021, the American government approved a sweeping stimulus plan dubbed “The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” The bill will pump billions of dollars into the American economy in the wake of the devastating impact of the global health crisis. Billions of dollars have been earmarked for the American education system.
What does this mean for K-12 schools? This article explores how schools will benefit from these funds, as well as touch on potential funding areas—read on to learn more.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides nearly $123 billion to American K-12 schools through the existing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (which was created in March 2020). These funds will be available through the end of September 2023.
The goals of these funds include:
- Paying for distance learning
- Making schools safe for in-person instruction
- Caring for the physical and mental wellbeing of students
- Compensating for learning loss that took place as a result of lockdowns
Funding from this bill represents the largest one-time federal funding of the American education system ever. Previous stimulus packages allocated funds to the K-12 system, but not to this extent; the original relief bill, passed in March 2020, allocated over $13 billion, while the second bill, passed in December 2020, delivered $54 billion.
A much-needed boost to the K-12 system
Researchers from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities note that this injection of funding was sorely needed.
States and localities have historically funded K-12 education; states provide approximately 47% of funding, while localities provide 45%, and the federal government funds the difference. However, the health crisis that unfolded in 2020 led to budget cuts to education.
Under the American Rescue Plan, school districts can expect to receive approximately 2.2 times the allocation from the previous federal aid package. The government will distribute the funds in such a way that poverty will be closely tracked. That tracking ensures school districts in dire need of funding will receive it to best support their students. Moreover, states won’t need to cut education budgets as a result of this funding and additional government allocations.
Important provisions in the American Rescue Plan of 2021
There are a few important provisions in the American Rescue Plan that pertain to education:
- State education agencies must distribute at least 90% of the funds to local education agencies based on their proportional share of Title IA funds
- State education agencies must spend at least 5% of funds to address learning loss, 1% of funds on summer programs, 1% on comprehensive evidence-based after-school programming, and not more than 0.5% can be used on administrative costs
- Local education agencies must reserve at least 20% of their funding to address learning loss
How can local education agencies address learning loss?
The bill is clear about how local education agencies can address learning loss:
- Learning or summer enrichment programs
- Extended day
- Comprehensive afterschool programs
- Extended school year programs
What about leftover funds?
What happens if there are leftover funds?
Local education agencies have some discretion about what they can do with leftover funds. These funds can be allocated in a variety of ways—the only requirement is that they further educational goals.
One approved use of funds is purchasing technology for distance learning (more on that later).
Can we expect further government funding for K-12 schools?
The American Rescue Plan might not be the last stimulus package that will boost funding for K-12 schools. Experts predict that President Biden will follow through on his promises to strengthen the American K-12 system through increased funding.
President Biden’s plans include tripling Title I funds from $15 billion to $45 billion a year, which would ideally level the playing field for all American students, regardless of their backgrounds.
As mentioned earlier, one way in which local education agencies can spend their funds is to invest in distance learning platforms. With so many options out there, what’s the right choice?
A unified communications platform makes the most sense for K-12 schools—here’s why:
- It’s flexible—it includes chat, videoconferencing, and telephony options
- Educators and students can use it on mobile devices
- It integrates with learning management software
Unified communications platforms are flexible
Unified communications platforms offer K-12 schools amazing flexibility.
If educators want to use video conferencing to teach synchronous classes, they can. They can even record the class and post it for viewing later. Teachers and administrators can also keep in touch with students and parents through messaging as well as telephony, so no one gets left behind during distance learning.
Educators and students can access a unified communications platform through mobile devices
Today, more children and adults than ever have access to mobile devices, be they smartphones or tablets. Your digital learning platform should enable all users to utilize it regardless of the device they’re using.
RingCentral’s unified communications platform offers one-click video and audio through any browser or through the RingCentral app.
Unified communications platforms integrate with learning management software
Learning management software has become the backbone of distance learning. It serves as the digital home for learning materials, notifications, and discussions. Market-leading unified communications platforms integrate with learning management software.
This integration saves time and effort for everyone. If a teacher wants to post a recording from class, she can do that from within the unified communications platform – there’s no need to open a separate program. When the student wants to watch that recording, all he has to do is open the unified communications platform, and there it is. The integration minimizes confusion, so students and teachers can focus on learning.
RingCentral’s unified communications platform is used by schools across the world. Administrators, educators, and students love that it’s easy to use and that it integrates with learning management software. Moreover, it features telephony, messaging, and videoconferencing, making it easy to stay connected. To learn more, get a demo.