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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much money is MPS allotted related to emergency federal COVID-19 funding?

As part of the American Rescue Plan passed earlier this spring, MPS will receive approximately $159 million in one-time funding that can be used in a variety of ways by September 30, 2024.

2. Can MPS spend the money on anything they/we want?

In order to receive the funds, school districts must develop a plan that includes input from the community and submit that plan to the Minnesota Department of Education. The funds will not be released to us until MDE has approved the plan.

3. What has MPS done to create this plan for spending these funds? Does the community have a say in how dollars are allocated?

MPS began actively seeking input from families, students, educators, staff members and community members about their ideas about how to use the funds soon after the bill was signed into law and the funding announced.

  • MPS convened the American Rescue Plan Stakeholder Committee and held three meetings with committee members in May and June
  • Stakeholder committee members have been asked to engage with their respective communities and constituents to solicit input to share with MPS
  • Input was also received via the online link on the district’s website

4. Are there any guideposts that MPS or the Stakeholder Committee is using to allocate the funds most effectively?

Yes. Recommended allocations will be weighed against some key MPS initiatives, an overview of which will be posted on our website:

  • MPS Board Budget Values
  • Guidance from the United States Department of Education (USDOE)
  • Comprehensive District Design Goals
  • Recommendations from MPS Division Leaders
  • Priorities from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)

‚Äč5. Can MPS hire more school staff with these dollars?

Because the grant funds are only available through September 30, 2024, MPS is looking to maximize opportunities that will not incur ongoing costs once the grant has ended.

  • That means hiring additional permanent staff or expanding programs with significant ongoing costs are less likely to be considered as options. Once these funds end after the three-year funding period, MPS would have to pick up the continuing costs without a revenue stream to support that.
  • One of MPS’ priorities is to ensure that the district has the ongoing funds required to sustain programs or services initiated through ESSER III once the grant monies end.
  • Some temporary staff may be hired to help implement programs identified as priorities in the plan.

6. Apart from avoiding the addition of permanent costs, are there other priority areas on which the government would like MPS to use these dollars?

MPS generally has a good deal of latitude in the use of the funds, however both state and federal guidance has identified some priority areas of focus. Some of the uses identified by state and federal authorities include, but are not limited to:

  • Addressing the needs of children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities experiencing homelessness, and foster care children
  • Addressing unfinished student learning (planned learning interrupted by the pandemic)
  • Planning for or implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students and providing technology for online learning
  • Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment) for students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including students from low-income families and children with disabilities
  • Providing mental health services and supports, including through the implementation of evidence based full-service community schools and expanding mental health services
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs

7. Can MPS spend ESSER dollars on things seemingly not related to COVID-19, for instance on reducing any future funding deficits?

Using a portion of the federal ESSER Funds to stabilize the district’s budget is allowable by law to ensure continuity of programming and the ability to maintain sufficient staffing levels to better meet the needs of our students.

  • According to the federal government, ESSER Funds may be used to stabilize and strengthen a district’s long-term budget outlook. MPS, for example, faces a long-term funding deficit approximately equal to the government’s underfunding of our Special Education and English Learner services, a deficit exacerbated by temporarily projected declines in student enrollment over the next three years.
  • In addition to covering emergency costs and increasing student supports, MPS will likely recommend directing some of the federal ESSER dollars to build a stronger financial base for the future, in compliance with federal guidelines. 

8. When is the deadline to submit the MPS plan to MDE?

The deadline for MPS to submit its ESSER III plan to MDE is October 1.

  • The fall deadline means that ESSER III funds will not be available for use at the start of the 2021/22 school year.
  • MPS is hopeful that we will have access to some of the funds midway through the 2021/22 school year, but we have not yet received confirmation of that.

9. Are ESSER III dollars the only federal funding MPS has received in response to the COVID-19 crisis?

No. You can see an overview of other available federal dollars on this webpage. MPS used ESSER I funds during the 2020/21 school year for remote learning technology, mental health supports, summer learning and other COVID-19 responses.  ESSER II funds will be used during the 2021/22 school year to provide a safe learning environment, academic acceleration, and mental health supports for our students.

10. What’s the timeline for reaching the Oct. 1 plan submission deadline?

  • May and June 2021: Initial community engagement to solicit input on use of ESSER III funding
  • Mid-June through mid-August: MPS prioritizes projects and creates draft funding allocation plan
  • August 17: Finance Committee meeting – present draft plan for feedback and revision
  • August 24: Present amended draft plan to ARP Advisory Committee meeting
  • Week of August 30 - September 5: Plan updated/finalized based on Committee feedback
  • September 14: MPS School Board reviews plan and votes to authorize expenditures
  • October 1 – Plan submitted to MDE