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Federal Relief Packages and Funds for Theatre Programs


American Rescue Plan Funds (2021-2024)

Since March of 2020, there have been funding relief packages earmarked for rebuilding schools by supporting K-12 education.  But the package passed in 2021, the American Rescue Plan, represented an unprecedented amount of funding for K-12 education and an opportunity for theatre educators.  The American Rescue Plan funds were the third federal relief package since March 2020, however what is so unusual was the size of the funding in this package for K-12 Education.  This plan will significantly increase your school district’s federal funds.  Even if your district has already planned the use of their funds, it is possible that theatre education programs may fit within their guidelines. Be prepared with a specific ask, and be ready to ask again even if the first answer is no.  Check out the acceptable spending categories in this blog by Jim Palmarini. 

March 2020 - Cares Act Funds - 13.2 Billion for K-12 Schools
December 2020 - Covid Relief Funds - 54 Billion for K-12 Schools
March 2021 - American Rescue Plan funds (ESSER III) - 126 Billion for K-12 Schools 

How much did my state receive?  My school district? 
Click here for a break down of the dollars going to each state. The state may set aside 10% of the funds received but the other 90% will go directly to the school districts.   To find out what your school district will receive search for your state Department of Ed website and ESSER III or ARP ESSER March 2021. For an example- here is the PA Dept of Ed Website information, giving a breakdown by school district of the distribution of PA’s 4.5 Billion dollar distribution.

Where can I learn more about ESSER funds?
The legislation which made the funds available (showing approved uses). Latest guidance on the American Relief Plan from the Department of Education.

How can I follow up on possible funding for my program? 

Figure out who distributes the funds, it could be a department chair, your principal, or your school district’s federal programs manager.  Be prepared with an ask. Be specific and justify what you are asking for.  (funds to hold a summer camp to address learning loss, funds to replace equipment or make possible social distancing, etc.)  The experts all agree- dream big.

Where can I get theatre specific help to understand it all?
Check out the EdTA Guide to ESSER III Funds created by EdTA's Advocacy and Policy Consultant, Jim Palmarini.  Find even more resources in the EdTA Rapid Response Center.

These funds will be available through 2024, how can I think long term?
Consider using the EdTA Opportunity to Learn Standards as a gap analysis for reimagining your program.
Read this Forbes article on creating a strategic plan for inspiration. 

Where can I find guidance on running my program safely?
CDC Guidance for School Settings
EdTA's Recommendations for Reopening School Programs (2020)
Research study "Measurements and Simulations of Aerosol Released while Singing and Playing Wind Instruments" offers guidance for singing and playing wind instruments.

Where can I find more information about state level policymakers who may influence these decisions and other funding issues?
NaFME maintains a wonderful database of state representatives and state level Title I officers sorted by state.  

Watch this space for more resources coming soon from EdTA!  

Free Money: Federal Funding for School Programs

Jim Palmarini, EdTA Policy and Advocacy Advisor, shares this important message about ESSER III (American Rescue Plan) and Title IV funds YOU may be able to snag for you theatre program.