The U.S. Department of Education (USED) today announced it has approved the release of 95 percent (nearly $1.4 billion) of Wisconsin’s ESSER III funding allocation to school districts. ESSER III funding was provided under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enacted by Congress in March 2021.
However, in its approval letter, the USED disallowed the portion of Wisconsin’s plan that allocated 5 percent (about $77 million) of the funding under conditions imposed by the Wisconsin legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) that rewarded districts that held predominately in-person instruction.
Because language in the ARPA directs that those funds be used to address learning loss, the USED determined those conditions did not comply with Congressional intent. As a result, the USED is holding back that 5% of the funding until Wisconsin changes the JFC-authored provision to comply with requirements in the ARPA.
The USED’s rejection of the JFC action means dozens of school districts will face continued uncertainty about just how much ESSER III money they’ll receive. Those districts tend to be suburban districts with relatively low numbers of low-income students eligible for Title I services.
For now, the DPI is working to sort out what the USED action means and will be working with the JFC to resolve the issue. State Superintendent Jill Underly released this media statement. The good news for now is that 95 percent of the ESSER III funding, including nearly $1.4 billion in direct aid to school districts and independent charter schools, is cleared to begin to be distributed.
We will report further when we know more details.