What Can ESSER Funds be Used For?

ESSER FundsAs a special educator, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard the term ‘ESSER Funds’ at some point during the last few years.

However, if you’re a special education administrator or district stakeholder – chances are even better that you’re well-aware of ESSER funds and have likely already spent hours researching different programs and technologies that are eligible for purchase with said funds.

ESSER funds, or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds, exist as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defining ESSER Funds

Between March 2020 – March 2021, Congress passed 3 major pieces of legislation to address the impact of the pandemic across the nation.

In each of these legislative acts, pandemic-relief funding was assigned to provide emergency aid to families, small businesses, laborers and schools (students and educators alike).

The legislation addresses the educational needs for preschool, K-12 and higher education. For the purpose of this blog, though, we’ll call specific attention to the K-12 population:

  • In March 2020, the CARES Act was passed, which granted $13.2 Billion to ESSER Fund
    • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act addressed specific issues at the beginning of the pandemic
  • In December 2020, the CRRSA Act was signed, granting $54.3 Billion to ESSER Fund II
    • The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act added new phases and components to the original CARES Act
  • In March 2021, the ARP Act (the American Rescue Plan) allocated $122.8 Billion to ESSER Fund III, plus $3 Billion to IDEA grants to States
    • The ARP is the government’s largest one-time investment in education, ever.

Moreover, with billions of dollars earmarked for education, how does it all come together to support your special education students and their teachers?

How Can ESSER Funds be Used?

Under all 3 legislative acts, the pandemic-relief funds designated specifically for education and related purposes can be used for things like:

  • Updating school building air flow
  • Improving sanitation measures
  • Upgrading equipment
  • Increased opportunities for professional development

In addition, funds can also be obligated for:

  • At-risk populations, including students with disabilities
  • Bridging the gap of opportunity between those who have access to reliable Internet and devices and those who do not
  • Purchasing educational technology, like TeachTown, that aids in consistent and substantial interaction between educators and students
  • And, more!

Under CRSSA and ARP,  additional funds are prioritized to address the loss of learning time that has been caused by the pandemic. This particular funding can be used to:

  • Conduct assessments that monitor student progress and help you as the educator meet your students needs
    • For example, using data to drive targeted small group instruction to meet the specific learning and behavior needs of students
  • Use evidence-based practices to address the whole child
  • Provide parents and families with assistance to support students
  • Monitor student progress and participation in remote learning environments.
Do ESSER Funds Expire?

They do.

We are still dealing with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic in education, for example a documented 6 months of learning loss in math and a 3 months in reading for the average public school student in grades 3-8.

Esser funds expiration

While ESSER 1 funds expired in September 2022, ESSER II and III funds are still available.

School districts, or local education agencies, must obligate ESSER II funds no later than September 30, 2023. While the school does not have to spend the funding by this date, they must commit to using these funds in a specific way by that time frame.

  • Think of it this way: You’re on a family vacation and get roped into attending a timeshare meeting. To compensate you for your attendance, the timeshare company rewards you with a complimentary one-week vacation. You are obligated to book the one-week vacation within one year of receiving the gift or it will expire. You can, however, take the actual vacation outside of that one-year window. 

Similarly, for ESSER III funds, schools must obligate funds no later than September 30, 2024.

Can School Districts Purchase TeachTown with ESSER Funds?

Yes! As a special education software provider, TeachTown’s K-12 adapted core curriculum and supporting interventions fit right into the sweet spot for ESSER funding.

TeachTown’s curriculum for students with moderate to severe disabilities has been designed to support continuity and intensity of instruction in any setting – whether that’s in-person, hybrid or remote-based learning – which was a major bonus for students when the pandemic hit!

Is your district is still identifying how to obligate those ESSER funds? Are you also looking to boost positive outcomes for your students? If so, schedule some time to chat with a member of our team. We are changing the conversation in special education with a comprehensive whole child approach for your students with extensive support needs. Join us, and be part of the story!

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