What Is ESSER Funding?
The Elementary and Secondary School Relief Funds (ESSER) program was launched in 2020 as a part of the COVID-19 relief fund packages created by the U.S. federal government. A total of three relief packages provide over $193 billion in supplemental funding to schools across the United States.
These funds were dispersed to each State Education Agency (SEAs), which must then allot 90% of these funds between each school district and distribute the funds among each school in their district. The amount each state received varies widely and is based on the amount of Title I funds your state or district received in the most recent fiscal year. You can learn more about how much your state received and the amount they’ve used so far by visiting the Education Stabilization Fund Transparency Portal.
Each package of ESSER funding has a deadline for when they need to be used by states, districts, and schools. Those deadlines are:
- ESSER I: September 30, 2022
- ESSER II: September 30, 2023
- ESSER III: September 30, 2024
While ESSER I funding has reached its deadline, there is still time for school districts to take advantage of the $179.9 billion in funding left in ESSER II and III relief packages. The CARES Act states that all funds that are not utilized must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education.
The key differences between the three tiers of ESSER Funding are the expansions of allowable spends from the original 12 approved for ESSER I funding to the final number of 21 approved for ESSER III funding. ESSER III funding also includes two planning requirements:
- 20% of ESSER III funds must be utilized for learning loss-related actions through the implementation of evidence-based interventions
- These programs must address students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, focusing on the extreme impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student populations.
Check out the chart below for a side-by-side comparison of each tier of ESSER funding to learn more about how much money was awarded and key dates to remember.
What Can I Use ESSER III Funding For?
The American Rescue Plan ESSER Grant Award states that Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) that receive funds must dedicate no less than 20% of these funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions. Examples of approved interventions include:
- Extended learning and enrichment programs (i.e., Saturday school, summer school, afterschool programs, etc.)
- Supporting social and emotional learning
- Purchasing educational technology
- Administering and using high-quality assessments
- Implementing evidence-based activities
- Providing high-quality professional development
- Creating programs to track and reduce learning loss
Schools and districts must ensure that these interventions answer students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. They must also address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on disadvantaged students, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners (ELs), racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care.
While 20% of ESSER III funding must be used for learning loss interventions, other uses of funding include purchasing sanitation supplies, updating ventilation systems in schools, providing mental health services, and many more! The Nebraska Department of Education clearly lays out a complete list of allowable uses for ESSER III funds on its website.
Make an Impact on Learning Loss with IMSE
The term “Learning Loss” is used to refer to the loss of knowledge and skills that school-age students have encountered as an immediate consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At IMSE, we are dedicated to ensuring that your educators are provided with the appropriate tools and knowledge needed to help combat learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to finding the right solutions, you are not alone in figuring out how to utilize federal ESSER funds best.
20% of ESSER funds MUST be used to combat COVID-19 learning loss through evidence-based intervention, such as IMSE Impact Structured Literacy training. IMSE offers multiple training options and tools needed for educators, including:
- A flexible training schedule
- Digital support and resources
- Classroom products
- Online lesson planning
- Refresher course
- Private district training
- A community of like-minded educators
If your state, district, or school hasn’t already taken advantage to tap into these funds, download the latest IMSE guide to learn how you can pursue the opportunity to invest in evidence-based, research-proven solutions to help combat learning loss.
Please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to get tips and tricks from your peers and us. Read the IMSE Journal to hear success stories from other schools and districts, and be sure to check out our digital resources for refreshers and tips.