How are states going to spend $122B in K-12 ESSER funds?

Hillary Knudson

Since March 2020, Congress has pushed out a total of three rounds of stimulus funding to K-12 schools. 

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funds now total $189 billion($13B, ESSER II $54B, ESSER III $122B). Although each round of funding was larger than the prior, the guardrails were also narrowed, curtailing allowable and required uses of funds. 

ESSER III (part of the American Rescue Plan) requires all states to submit a state plan to the US Department of Education which describes their priorities and intended use of funds for state activities, which account for 10% of ESSER funds. Of the 45 plans submitted to ED as of 8/5/21, 21 have been approved.

W/A Research clients can access details on district allocations and other specifics, here. In the following post, we provided a primer to answer some basic questions with the goal of explaining what state plans reveal about state priorities - and the anticipated use of funds.

What are most states doing with ESSER Funds?  

  • Every plan references social emotional and/or mental health supports for students, and some states include specific efforts for teachers

  • About 90% of states are incorporating professional development for teachers, primarily academic but others reference trauma-informed and culturally-responsive practices

  • About ⅔ are considering curriculum or instructional materials supports 

  • Over half are prioritizing early literacy, while only one third included references to early childhood

  • About ⅓ of states included efforts related to data infrastructure, STEM or CTE or advanced coursework

There is significant flexibility for states and districts in the allowable uses of funds -- the stimulus legislation points to any and all activities under ESEA and IDEA -- there are requirements: 

  • Not less than 5% to lost instructional time (“learning loss”)

  • Not less than 1% for summer enrichment

  • Not less than 1% for after-school learning

Remember: ESSER III funding is intended for activities and interventions that support the academic needs, as well as the social, emotional, and mental health needs for students and those that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 

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