Frank Edelblut

Frank Edelblut, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, speaks Friday in Bedford alongside Bedford Superintendent Mike Fournier and Principal Molly McCarthy of Riddle Brook Elementary School.

The New Hampshire Department of Education submitted its statement of priorities for the state’s portion of the $350 million coming to Granite State schools from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package Congress passed in March.

Local school districts will get 90% of the money, more than $315 million. Each district’s share was distributed according to a formula that considers both population and other factors like the number of children from poor families. The same formula was used to distribute money to schools from the two earlier stimulus packages.

The remaining 10% of the money, $35 million, will be spent by the state Department of Education. The state’s plan to spend this portion was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education late Monday.

According to the plan, the state’s top priority in spending the $35 million is helping students’ learning recovery with activities outside of school. The U.S. Department of Education is requiring about half of the state’s portion of the money — just over $17 million — be spent on summer programs, tutoring and before- and after-school activities to make up for learning loss.

New Hampshire is concentrating on providing one-on-one tutoring, summer camp subsidies, and paying for a program of small-group learning “pods” of children who need to catch up, which can be convened by schools or by groups of families.

“Our assessment of the top needs for children in the state is individualized instruction, access to technology, and out-of-school learning opportunities, such as summer enrichment camps,” the plan reads.

School districts are developing summer programs of their own, but the state plans to support summer camps, like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club, with subsidies for children. The state has earmarked $3 million left over from the 2020 CARES Act to reimburse up to 8,330 low-income families for summer camp, and expects to expand the program with money from the American Rescue Plan. The camp subsidy may continue next summer, according to the plan.

To help children reeling from the pandemic year, the state will spend $500,000 on training for camp counselors to deal with mental health and social-emotional issues.

Tutoring for up to 1,940 low-income students and those receiving special education services will account for $2 million, for stipends paid to teachers and other qualified educators, up to $1,000 per child.

The U.S. Department of Education directed state education departments to look at ways to help groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including children from poor families, those learning English for the first time, children experiencing homelessness, children with special needs and non-White children.

The New Hampshire Department of Education decided against targeting interventions toward each disproportionately impacted group.

“Because the level of need is comparable, and because the groups are not exclusive, and given our theory that local leaders are best equipped to solve local educational problems, we do not intend to require specific interventions be matched to specific gender, racial, ethnic, or family income subgroups,” the plan stated.

Instead, the state plans to invest in programs accessible to all students, with a priority for groups who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

In addition to the groups listed by the U.S. Department of Education as disproportionately impacted, the New Hampshire Department of Education added students living in the North Country — some of whom had more difficulty getting online for remote learning in the spring of 2020.

The state plan also notes educator fatigue that may be contributing to a teacher shortage, and continuing family engagement, as areas worthy of spending. Education leaders and members of the school reopening task force who met last month recommended the state spend on professional development for teachers.

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