How K-12 Schools Can Use the Government Assistance Program ESSERESSER stands for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a federal program administered by the Department of Education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides emergency financial assistance to public school districts across the country.
A recent article "Schools Got $122 Billion to Reopen Last Year. Most Has Not Been Used," by Lauren Lumpkin and Sahana Jayaraman, published October 24, 2022, in The Washington Post, describes the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), a federal program administered by the Department of Education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the how school systems throughout the country reported using less than 15 percent of the latest round of federal education funding allotted to them during the last school year via ESSER.
That's a lot of funding sitting there for any school district.
In this article, we'll look at ESSER and how you can use ESSER funds - before the program expires completely.
What is ESSER?
ESSER stands for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a federal program administered by the Department of Education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides emergency financial assistance to public school districts across the country.
K-12 institutions may use ESSER funding to address pandemic learning loss and invest in infrastructure and programs to open and operate safely.
To date, the government has signed three ESSER packages into law, totaling $189.5 billion:
ESSER I was approved in March 2020 for $13.5 billion
ESSER II was approved December 2020 for $54.3 billion
ESSER III was approved in March 2021 for $123 billion
What can ESSER funds be used for?
The government stipulates that ESSER funds may be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19.
Districts must use at least 20 percent of ESSER funding to address learning loss through evidence-based interventions.
So what can you use the other 80 percent for?
Basically, any educational uses and support of safety, prevention, and responses to a pandemic - so we don't lose the ability to educate! Things like PPE, furniture for social distancing, specialty personnel, and remote learning application that can keep teachers and students connected.
- Investing in furniture and equipment to keep teachers, students and staff safe and/or distanced during in-person instruction, such as individual desks and mobile chairs, tabletop screens and PPE.
- Investing in outdoor furniture and equipment to account for an increase in outdoor activities and dining, such as picnic tables, benches and portable sinks.
- Hiring additional personnel to keep school spaces safe and clean, such as nurses and custodians.
- Purchasing health and safety equipment to help prevent the spread of disease, such as air purifiers, sanitation stations and universal cleaners.
- Investing in educational technology and remote learning tools, including hardware like headphones, software and connectivity to support student learning. SEA’s in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia apply directly to the Department of Education for ESSER funds and are responsible for allocating the funds to relevant school districts.
- Purchasing furniture and equipment to implement before and after-school enrichment programs, including table and chair sets.
- Hiring additional educators and support staff.
- Purchasing adaptive furniture and equipment to support students with special needs.
Teacher's Discovery is an K-12 education resource provider with digital World Language learning programs like Flangoo.com and Voces Digital Curriculum, so you know what qualifying ESSER funds use stood out to us, "Investing in educational technology and remote learning tools... software and connectivity to support student learning."
What schools are eligible for ESSER?
Every school within a district, regardless of its Title I status, is eligible to receive ESSER funding. Charter schools that belong to LEAs (local educational agencies) are eligible to receive ESSER funding as well.
How do you apply for ESSER funding?
School districts may apply for ESSER funding through their state educational agency, or SEA. An SEA is the agency primarily responsible for the State supervision of public elementary schools and secondary schools. For example: the Ohio Department of Education is the SEA in Ohio. The Wisconsin Department of Institution is the SEA in Wisconsin.
SEA’s in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia apply directly to the Department of Education for ESSER funds and are responsible for allocating the funds to relevant school districts.
When do ESSER funds expire?
School districts have a limited time to spend ESSER funds. Each round of ESSER money has a specific deadline for use, or “period of availability”:
Tier 1: ESSER I funds are available for use until September 30, 2022
Tier 2: ESSER II funds are available for use until September 30, 2023
Tier 3: ESSER III funds are available for use untilSeptember 30, 2024
For schools looking to safeguard and enhance their World Language programs.
You can use your ESSER funds on high-quality World Language learning programs like Flangoo.com and Voces Digital Curriculum. World Language teachers across the United States and elsewhere use these distance learning solutions today.
Nobody wants another pandemic, but if you want to safeguard and enhance your World Language programs - and you get your ESSER funds - Teacher's Discovery has you covered. Happy Teaching!
How to apply for ESSER in your state?
The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education website has a listing of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ARP ESSER): State and Local Educational Agency (LEA)/School District Plans
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