Maryland was recently highlighted by a national bipartisan organization of superintendents and state education leaders for its successful use of education COVID-19 relief funding.
Chiefs for Change is a bipartisan national organization of state and district education system leaders who “collectively advocate for policies and practices that make a difference for students and work to develop the next generation of bold Future Chiefs.” The organization’s recent report, titled “A Work in Progress: How Covid Aid Is Helping Schools Recover and the Need for Sustained Federal Support,” recognizes successful stories of local governments putting COVID-19 American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds to good use. The report highlights Maryland’s successful application of ESSER funds, totaling over $3 billion.
One of the report’s praised examples is the Maryland Leads Initiative. Maryland Leads is a new grant initiative designed to support Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in utilizing federal funds to overcome the learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerate student learning to narrow opportunity and achievement gaps and provide more targeted support for historically underserved students and their communities. Maryland Leads also supports LEAs in addressing short and long-term challenges related to the current labor shortage and attends to the longstanding need to establish and strengthen teacher pipelines and development.
According to The Baltimore Sun, more than $150 million of ESSER funds were allocated for the Maryland Leads initiative to “use with the goals of closing achievement gaps and adding more supports for underserved students, ultimately scaling up projects being done at the local level.” Notably, $150 million is backed by $25 million in local county funding to encourage the program’s long-term sustainability.
Maryland’s 24 local school systems were each allocated a portion of the state funds through a non-competitive grant process. Award amounts were announced spring 2022 and implemented starting that summer. Funds are set to be used through the 2023-24 school year.
Notably, the last round of ESSER funding has to be allocated by September 30, 2024 and spent by January 28, 2025. The Chiefs for Change report advocates for the continuation of federal aid past these deadlines, however, saying that school systems “could more easily continue, replicate and scale” meaningful programs to help students bounce back from pandemic challenges like learning loss.