FILE - U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education building

(The Center Square) – The federal government has approved the Nevada Department of Education’s (DOE) plan to use the more than $1 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds it's receiving, the department said this week.

According to the plan, the state DOE will use the funds to safely reopen schools, expand afterschool programs, and support the needs of students and educators. The approval will result in the release of the remaining $358 million the state has yet to receive.

Some specific programs include allocating $7.5 million to charter school authorities to add mental health services, and $10.7 million in grants to expand early learning and other support-based afterschool programs. 

“Our Nevada [American Rescue Plan Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief] state plan prioritizes supporting the social, emotional, and mental well-being of our students, educators, and staff; addressing the impacts of interrupted learning; and recruiting and retaining the effective educators needed to meet those goals,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said in a statement.

“I am infinitely proud of our state’s innovative and inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery, and we look forward to using this turning point to reimagine our education system and ensure equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities for every student,” she continued.

Back in January, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced he was paring back the state’s education budget to navigate a more than $500 million revenue shortfall this year.

The governor's plan called for $187 million in reduced spending, with K-12 education making up $130 million of the total, the Reno Gazette Journal reported.

At the same time, lawmakers passed a flurry of bills during the legislative session aimed at exempting state schools from federal accountability requirements and revamping how Nevada funds its public education programs.

Nevada’s Board of Education is also implementing its five-year plan which calls for the state to increase the number of students who achieve a high school diploma by 50%.

To achieve these goals, DOE will receive $107 million in ARP funds while 17 school districts and charter school authorities receive a cumulative $996 million.