Since March 2021, school district leaders have been developing and implementing plans to spend their “ARP dollars,” that is, the historic $122 billion allocated from the American Rescue Plan to help districts recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. The money, also referred to as ESSER funds (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief), is intended to help with schools’ reopening and recovery.

But the district planning and spending processes have been murky and difficult to follow. Some districts clearly report ARP spending on their websites, while others lack detail, leaving advocates and families wondering where all this federal money is going. Also unclear is whether districts are spending their funds on programs and practices rooted in evidence, and if they are prioritizing equity — that is, targeting funds to students who need it most.

This federal investment is crucial for students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, who are not only more likely to live in communities most impacted by the pandemic, but also who have been long underserved by our nation’s schools.

This guide is designed to help advocates ask district leaders questions about the details of their
ARP spending plans to ensure their school district is prioritizing rigor and equity and using funds on
practices and strategies that have been proven to work.