The state Department of Education received legislative approval Friday to disburse $124.3 million in federal emergency relief money to 36 more school districts.
The Arkansas Legislative Council accepted a report from its Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review subcommittee to authorize spending for 35 districts and suspended its rules to add a 36th district — Rector, which asked for $773,998.
M. DOE ARPA Request 2
The council has been reviewing school districts’ efforts to comply with its recommendation that they use federal American Recovery Plan Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund dollars to give a $5,000 bonus to full-time teachers, a $2,500 bonus to full-time classified staff and a bonus to part-time classified staff amounting to half of the bonus awarded their full-time counterparts.
The council made the recommendation in July after clawing back $500 million in spending authority it had previously given to the education department. Many school districts had already planned to spend some of those funds on equipment, buildings and other projects. The council later voted to give back $42 million of that spending authorization.
School districts have been responding to an education department survey as to whether and how their ESSER spending plans met the council’s recommendations regarding teacher and staff bonuses.
Under the American Recovery Plan, the funds are intended to help state education departments and local school districts safely reopen; sustain safe operations; and address the academic, social, emotional and mental heath effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students, according to the Arkansas Department of Education.
The state education department cannot reimburse districts for their American Rescue Plan expenses until the PEER subcommittee approves the department’s appropriation request.
Earlier this month, the council authorized the education department to disburse $145.2 million in emergency relief funds to 38 school districts.
Friday’s action extended spending authority to another 36 districts.
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