The American Rescue Plan (ARP) is providing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to North Dakota’s school districts to meet the extraordinary challenges they are facing because of the COVID pandemic.
The ARP represents the largest one-time federal investment in K-12 education in our nation’s history. Nationally, the ARP provides $123B in new monies to our nation’s schools and arrives with the flexibility necessary for school districts to target their specific needs. North Dakota’s share amounts to over $305.2M.
I think schools would be well served to consider these strategic investments:
- The recruitment and retention of education professionals. We know that very talented teacher candidates are either delaying their entry into the field or are choosing other career options because they do not see educators getting the support they need to be as effective as possible. Investing in better salaries and teacher supports, like coaching and mentoring, will pay dividends well into the future.
- Expanding educational opportunities for students. Now is the time to invest in eliminating longstanding inequities in educational opportunities for our students. Expanding class offerings and programs in CTE, AP, the Arts, and others will show students and their parents what is possible while also expanding the knowledge of our students.
- Improving teaching and learning spaces. Improving school ventilation systems, HVAC systems, and enacting measures to make our schools as safe as possible are an excellent use of ARP dollars.
- Promoting innovation and technology. One of the positive takeaways from the pandemic is that teachers across the state improved the use of technology to advance student knowledge. Investing now in improving access to technology for both teachers and students will spur innovation and prepare our kids to take their place in the economy of the future.
- Improving our communities. Making sure that our students and their families have access to affordable healthcare, mental health services, school nurses, both in and outside their schools, should be made a priority. Additionally, attention should be paid to creating a statewide program giving working parents paid family leave and paid sick leave, regardless of the jobs they do. Strengthening families means strengthening communities and strong, vibrant communities are the backbone of our state.