What is ESSER Funding?

What exactly is ESSER funding?

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 in December 2020 for $54.3 billion
  • ESSER III was approved in March 2021 for $123 billion

How can ESSER funding be used?

The US 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.

This leaves open a wide range of uses, including:

  • Providing principals and others school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after school programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
  • Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for online learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.) and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all Federal, State, and local requirements

How can my school apply for ESSER funding?

School districts may apply for ESSER funding through their state educational agency or SEA. “A 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 Institutions 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.

Can ESSER funding be used for Project-Based Learning training?

Yes! As mentioned above, “Providing principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools.”, provides discretion to the leadership as to what their specific needs are, which can be Project-Based Learning training and coaching for teachers and staff.

If you’re interested in learning more about ESSER funding and the process of applying for teacher training and professional development such as Project-Based Learning certification, contact us today to schedule a meeting!


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