Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Education Funding

Biden Administration Outlines How School Districts Should Spend COVID Aid

By Libby Stanford — August 25, 2022 5 min read
Angela Pike watches her fourth grade students at Lakewood Elementary School in Cecilia, Ky., as they use their laptops to participate in an emotional check-in at the start of the school day, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. The rural Kentucky school is one of thousands across the country using the technology to screen students' state of mind and alert teachers to anyone struggling.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Biden administration released a new tool aimed at helping parents hold districts accountable for their use of federal COVID-19 relief funds as the 2024 spending deadline approaches.

The White House and the U.S. Department of Education jointly announced the back-to-school American Rescue Plan checklist for parents on Aug. 25. The resource, which is available on the Education Department’s website, guides parents through conversations with their school districts about local use of the funds. Districts have until September 2024 to decide how they’ll spend the money.

“I’m encouraging schools and families to reach a new level of communication and transparency together to make sure our students and educators are getting the support they need,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said during a phone briefing with reporters.

The checklist describes how the funds can be used to support student learning, address the needs of the whole child, ensure COVID-19 health and safety, and help districts engage families. Under each topic, the Education Department outlines specific strategies that serve as best practices for districts.

For example, the department says districts can use the funds to provide high-quality tutoring, expand after-school and summer learning practices, and recruit and retain school teachers, all to help with student learning. The recommendations follow the Biden administration’s National Partnership for Student Success initiative, an effort to supply 250,000 tutors and mentors to classrooms.

The department also suggests that districts use the funds to provide wraparound services through “community schools” and increase access to mental health services by hiring more school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Earlier this year, the administration increased its funding amount for its community schools grant program, which provides funding to programs that offer wrap-around services to students.

To address the COVID-19 pandemic, the resource highlights vaccine clinics, HVAC enhancements for clean air, and free COVID-19 testing for all staff and students.

The recommendations in the checklist should serve as “a starting point” between families and school and district leaders, Cardona said.

An effort to engage more families

The back-to-school checklist supplements other Education Department efforts to improve relationships between school districts and the families they serve. In June, the department announced its National Parents and Families Engagement Council, an effort to bring parents and family leaders into conversations about education policy.

Several conservative activist groups, including the America First Legal Foundation, Fight for Schools and Families, and Parents Defending Education, filed a lawsuit against the Education Department in July. The lawsuit alleges the department violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires committee memberships to be “fairly balanced in terms of points of view represented.” The lawsuit alleges that nearly 80 percent of the leaders of the parent organizations involved in the committee donated to Biden’s campaign, leading to biased representation.

The back-to-school checklist specifically highlights family engagement as a best practice use of the federal funds, suggesting that districts hire parent coordinators to connect schools and families or use the funds to conduct home visits and other family engagement activities.

First lady Jill Biden, who joined the Aug. 25 media briefing, said there is a “no more powerful advocate for students” than their parents.

“Parents are their children’s first teachers,” said Biden, who has been an educator for 38 years and currently teaches writing classes at North Virginia Community College. “They know what their children need better than anyone.”

Highlighting ‘strong examples’ of local districts’ use of the funds

The Education Department also used the checklist to highlight school districts and state education agencies that it says are “strong examples” of how to use American Rescue Plan dollars.

One of the highlighted districts, Guilford County Schools in North Carolina, allocated nearly $10 million in federal funds to a high-dosage tutoring program that identifies students based on their grades, test data, course failures, and absenteeism.

The school district partnered with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a historically Black university, to supply over 420 tutors, who spent more than 67,000 hours with students, according to the checklist.

“For us, high-dosage tutoring has two purposes: to address learning loss and to create a pipeline of educators,” said Whitney Oakley, the acting superintendent of the Guilford school district. “As our tutors see the impact they are making on the lives of students, some have already expressed a desire to teach in public education after they complete their studies.”

The department also highlighted the following districts and state agencies for their use of the funds:

  • Arkansas Department of Education for expanding tutoring
  • Iowa Department of Education for paraeducator and teacher recruitment
  • Mississippi Department of Education for expanding health care access in schools
  • Puerto Rico Department of Education for increasing teacher salaries
  • Tennessee Department of Education for expanding teacher pipeline
  • Aurora Public Schools in Colorado for expanding tutoring
  • Denver Public Schools in Colorado for improving ventilation and air quality
  • Detroit Public Schools in Michigan for improving facilities
  • Gaston County Schools in North Carolina for expanding nursing staff
  • Guilford County Schools in North Carolina for expanding tutoring
  • Houston Independent School District in Texas for installing air filtration spaces
  • Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky for opening student support centers
  • New York City Department of Education for hiring social workers
  • Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota for supporting mental health and wellness
  • Santa Fe Public Schools in New Mexico for supporting mental health and wellness


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding A Court Ordered Billions for Education. Why Schools Might Not Get It Now
The North Carolina Supreme Court is considering arguments for overturning a statewide order for more school funding.
6 min read
A blue maze with a money bag at the end of the maze.
Education Funding Schools Want More Time to Spend COVID-19 Aid for Homeless Students
Senators want to give districts more time to spend COVID relief funds for students experiencing homelessness.
4 min read
New canvas school bags hanging on the backs of empty classroom student chairs in a large modern classroom
iStock/Getty Images
Education Funding ESSER Isn't the Only School Funding Relief That's Disappearing Soon
Federal relief aid, policies to prevent schools from losing enrollment-based funding, and support for vulnerable families are expiring soon.
10 min read
Vector illustration of a businessman's hand holding a slowly vanishing dollar sign.
Education Funding Schools Lost Ground on Funding in Recent Years. The Recovery Could Be Slow
School funding took a hit a few years ago. It might be some time before it recovers.
5 min read
Tight crop of a dollar bill puzzle missing one piece