How Is Your District Using ESSER Funds?

Here is a rundown of the brief research I conducted on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding, and what my district is doing with the funds.

Day 13 of my 30-Day Writing Challenge

Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

What Is ESSER?

Several times during the pandemic, Congress passed laws to — in part- provide emergency relief funding to schools in the U.S. The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), for example, both provided relief funds to schools, and that funding became known as ESSER: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.

So many acronyms, so little time. I digress.

For more details on this funding, please read this announcement from the Department of Education.

Congress has allocated billions of dollars to the states through ESSER, and the states have re-allocated those dollars to school districts. The amount received is in proportion to their annual Title I, Part A funds awarded through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In the link attached, you will find the amount awarded to your state.

My state, Pennsylvania, received almost 524 million dollars. My district received $395,218.00 in May 2020, $475,677 in January 2021, and $3,552,944 in March 2021. As we are a small district, we did not receive as much as others around us.

I found information on allocations by visiting the PA Department of Education Website.

How Do States Plan to Use Those Funds?

According to FutureEd, a Georgetown University independent think tank, only two-thirds of the funding awarded in March 2021 was released. The final third would be released after states submitted their plans on how to use that money. Pennsylvania’s plan was approved. You can view your state’s plan and approval status using the spreadsheet linked below.

What Are Some States Focusing On?

A quick review of the FutureEd State Plan Tracking sheet reveals the following categories.

  • Student and staff mental health
  • School relationships with families: rebuilding trust, addressing attendance issues, ensuring the right supports are in place for students and families.
  • Food distribution
  • Addressing “learning loss” with new curricula, enrichment programs (tutoring, summer school programs, etc.), and “learning acceleration” initiatives

(If a state did not call it “learning loss,” “unfinished” or “interrupted learning” was used instead. Personally, I prefer those terms over “learning loss.”)

  • Addressing the socioeconomic divide that continues to widen during the pandemic, to ensure all students receive the education they deserve.
  • Staff shortages and staff training
  • Building improvements
  • Technology improvements to ensure “digital equity.”
  • Health and safety plans for school reopening
  • Data analysis to support student learning

What about Your District?

In Pennsylvania, districts were required to submit their plans to address the needs of students. My district has its plan on our website. It addresses mitigation measures, building cleaning procedures, HVAC improvements, plans to maximize “in-person learning in the safest manner possible,” academic needs with summer school and credit recovery programs, social and emotional needs of students and staff, food services, transportation services, health services (for example, we have held COVID vaccination clinics), and accommodations for students with special needs. All this has been coordinated with the intermediate unit and a local health network.

It’s a comprehensive plan. It’s an excellent plan.

Most likely, your district has a similar plan. I highly recommend visiting the district website and reading the entire plan. One way we can combat misinformation and disinformation is to consume information from reliable, credible sources. Your district is just such a source.

I also urge you to attend school board meetings. Since March 2020, I have only missed one meeting. I want to hear from the board and superintendent directly. I urge you to do the same. If necessary, tell your school board and superintendent if you disagree with something. It’s your district too, after all.

Thank you for reading the thirteenth post in my 30-Day Writing Challenge.

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