$118 million from Biden's American Rescue Plan allocated to support Arizona schoolchildren

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American Rescue Plan funds are going to programs that assist students in the areas of mental health, academic achievement, career development, literacy, and life outside of the classroom.

The Arizona Department of Education has announced in May and June the allocation of over $118 million in grants for education recovery efforts in the state funded by the American Rescue Plan.

The legislation, which passed in Congress with only Democratic votes, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Mar. 11, 2021. Biden said during the signing ceremony, "I believe this is — and most people, I think, do as well — this historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people and middle-class folks, the people who built the country — a fighting chance. That's what the essence of it is."

Both of Arizona's senators, Democrats Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, voted for the bill, as did all Democratic members of the state's House delegation. All of the state's Republican House members opposed the measure.

The state Department of Education announced that $29.2 million will be spent on services to support students experiencing mental health issues and educational delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also announced that $13 million will go to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs, commonly called STEM, including $10 million for the Arizona State University Center for Science and Imagination.

Rural schools will receive $13.3 million to hire more teachers. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said, "Our rural schools need special attention when it comes to addressing this crisis."

The department said $15.3 million would be allocated to programs to support students and their families, with a special focus on low-income and first-generation students, particularly social and academic support outside of the classroom. Literacy programs to aid students across Arizona will receive $11.6 million, while $1.8 million has been set aside in targeted funding for support programs for Native American parents and children.

Programs focused on preparing students for life after school are also receiving help, with $6.2 million in grants for college readiness programs and $5.1 million for career development, with $2 million for Jobs for Arizona's Graduates, a nonprofit that says its "mission is to help young people stay in school and to acquire the academic, personal, leadership and vocational skills they will need to be successful upon graduation."

Another $10 million will be used to support the department's programs for teaching English as a second language, and $1.7 million will fund organizations that serve students with disabilities.

The department said $12.1 million will be awarded to other programs supporting children's physical and mental health.

Bryan Madden, the CEO of the Valley of the Sun YMCA, a program beneficiary in Phoenix, said in the department's statement on the disbursal, "Every day our YMCA's provide programs for youth to build friendships, develop character and grow in spirit, mind & body. Support from the Arizona Department of Education is allowing for the expansion of youth wellness programs that will move the needle on childhood health."

Arizona is set to receive a total of $9.9 billion in relief under the American Rescue Plan, including $2.6 billion that will go to K-12 schools. The state has also received $716 million for 72 colleges and universities.

In March, Arizona PBS's Cronkite News service reported on a visit by Biden to a National League of Cities conference in Washington at which several Arizona municipal officials expressed gratitude for the funding being provided to their institutions under the American Rescue Plan.

Mesa Mayor John Giles said the money "has given us the resources needed to develop programs and initiatives to continue to address homelessness, fight food insecurity, bridge the digital divide and strengthen our small businesses as they rebound."

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods mentioned the conversion of a motel into a shelter for people without homes, saying, "Imagine if you're unhoused and living on the street and how seriously challenging that time was. So the fact that we were able to purchase that motel was really big in terms of helping 40 people to get off the street and begin the process of turning their lives around and getting them the services they need."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.