Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

As we all know, COVID-19 has created unprecedented occurrences for students everywhere. Through this schools across the United States have received federal funding to offset the learning loss students are facing. An important fund to note is the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief Fund (ESSER), put in place to address the impact COVID-19 has had and continues to have on elementary and secondary schools. To track ESSER funding, click here. To view the ESSER fact sheet, click here

Where Funding Came From

The following three acts were passed to help provide funding to ESSER:

  1. March 27, 2020: Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) | provided $13.2 billion to ESSER fund (ESSER I).
  2. December 27, 2020: Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) | provided $54.3 billion to ESSER fund (ESSER II). 
  3. March 11, 2021: American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) | provided $122.7 billion to ESSER fund (ESSER III).

How Funding Will Be Used

The main question school districts have is how the funds can be used. The total of ESSER funding for education is valued at $170.3 billion.

$125.4 billion goes to K-12 education.

ESSER III has an outline of how part of the funding must be used for each state. State Education Agencies must use 5% to address learning loss, 1% for afterschool activities, and 1% for summer learning. Of the funding to districts or Local Education Agencies (LEAs), 20% must address learning loss. Two-thirds of funding is available now to the states- but the remaining funds will not be available until states submit ESSER implementation plans.

LEAs will receive nearly $110 billion through a single program and can decide where funds will be spent. Furthermore, these funds can be used on any educational expense allowed under the ESSER Act, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

States and districts can use the funds to make high-leverage investments for students. Student learning can be accelerated by extending the school year with summer enrichment, or tutoring programs. Funds can provide students and staff with safe school re-opening plans that align with the latest public health guidance. Additionally, schools may choose to upgrade school facilities to promote healthy learning environments. There is also the opportunity to invest in wraparound supports, including the use of community schools. Finally, and most notably, these funds may help to restabilize and diversify the educator workforce. This includes the work being done through Teachers of Tomorrow to help rebuild the educator pipeline. 

Confronting Learning Loss

The main concern schools are facing is learning loss, schools and state plans must show they are addressing this. A key factor to addressing learning loss is acknowledging academic and social-emotional loss. Plans must be made to deliver online instruction for teachers without distance learning experience. It is also important to meet the needs of at-risk students, English learners, and special education students.

Students are coping and so are teachers; it is important to provide them with the tools to overcome learning loss. Professional development for teachers will help, providing resources as teachers get their classrooms running and comply with all health requirements.

The funding will be a great help to school districts, charter schools, and private schools. Students will have the opportunity to come back to safe schools and experience increased student learning to get back on track. With this knowledge, it’s time to get to work. Help us provide all students with the teachers they deserve. 

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