As ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds come to a close, they must be obligated by September 30, 2022, and spent by September 30, 2024, and schools and districts want to make smart spending decisions.
What is ESSER?
ESSER funds were made available by the federal government to help schools address the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. As the needs of schools and districts evolved during the pandemic, ESSER allowable uses also expanded to focus on learning recovery. For more details on ESSER funding allowable uses, the US Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education released this detailed FAQ document.
Changing COVID Landscape
Over the past three years, schools and districts have needed to pivot in unbelievable ways and that goes for the prioritization of spending as well. The focus is no longer on PPE, testing, and contact tracing, but more on learning recovery, socio-emotional well-being, and staffing. With ESSER funds sunsetting, it is imperative to align new needs to spend what is left.
3 Recommendations for Spending ESSER Funds
Needs Assessment / Data Collection: Schools and districts should demonstrate some form of needs assessment or data collection that informs the need to allocate funds. This can be done in a simple survey or by analyzing current data trends. Analyze the data for root causes and prioritize needs accordingly.
Data-Informed Plan: With the needs understood and the data to back it up, schools and districts should create a plan of action. Plans should include overall goals for spending the funds, the federal allowable use category related to those goals, and the actions and related expenditures that will take place to reach those goals.
Define Success and Its Measurements: For accountability and possible auditing purposes, schools and districts should include clear measurements for success. Whether it is an increase in the percent of students reading at grade level or the number of school counselors staffed each year, it is important to set clear metrics and timelines for the goals outlined in the plan.
Schools and districts will have varied needs based on location, size, and demographics, but following these three basic steps can ensure clear allocation, implementation, and accountability for ESSER funds.
Torace can support all three steps of spending ESSER funds for teacher professional development. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more.