Matt Homrich-Knieling July 20, 2023

ESSER Funds: What Are They, And How Can You Make Them Work For Your School?

Matt Homrich-Knieling

Writer and Educator

The COVID-19 pandemic caused deep ruptures in school systems and created serious needs for increased support. Luckily, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund provided schools with financial aid to help address these needs. 

ESSER funds have also come with a lot of questions and confusion, and importantly, the clock is ticking for when districts need to spend a significant portion of these funds. 

We’re here to answer your questions about ESSER funds and offer guidance on how you might capitalize these remaining funds to best support your teachers and students. 

By when do districts need to spend these funds?

ESSER funds were allocated in three separate iterations: ESSER I, ESSER II, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) ESSER funds. Each iteration has its own deadline:

  • The deadline to designate ESSER I funds was in September 2022.
  • The deadline to designate ESSER II funds was September 30th, 2023.
  • The deadline to designate ARP ESSER funds is fast approaching on September 30, 2024.

With the deadline of ARP ESSER funds approaching, districts need to make decisions soon about how to spend those funds. 

What can districts purchase?

A lot! Fortunately, the criteria for what can be purchased with these federal dollars is very broad. This allows districts to use the funds to meet their own individual needs. 

Here is an overview, according to the U.S. Department of Education, of how districts can spend ESSER funds:

  • Students’ social, emotional, and/or mental needs
    • Examples: 
      • Hiring additional school counselors, psychologists, or social workers
      • Utilizing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum 
  • Students’ academic needs*
    • Examples:
      • Providing professional development and learning opportunities for teachers
      • Implementing a new curriculum
      • Purchasing educational technology 
  • Health and safety needs aligned with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance 
    • Examples:
      • Hiring school nurses 
      • Purchasing updated ventilation and air filtration systems 
  • Needs of students with disabilities
    • Examples:
      • Hiring special education teachers
      • Purchasing assistive and/or adaptive technology 

*It is important to note that at least 20% of the ARP ESSER allocation must be used specifically to address the academic impact of the pandemic.

For a more detailed list of what can be purchased with ESSER funds, you can refer to the Department of Education’s FAQ page.

How can BetterLesson help?

These funds are a tremendous opportunity for school districts to support student learning and wellbeing, and we understand the need for the money to be put to good use. 

Responding to this need, BetterLesson created an ESSER funding landing page, detailing our comprehensive professional development (PD) packages that can be personalized to your specific school district. 

The three PD packages include combinations of virtual 1:1 coaching for teachers and leaders, access to on-demand courses and lesson plans, in-person and virtual workshops, and in-person learning walks.

Investing in high-quality and personalized professional development can have profound impacts on student learning, teacher retention, school culture, and so much more.

BetterLesson is here to make sure your district gets the most out of its ESSER funds. Schedule a call with us today to learn more about our personalized professional development packages.

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