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The Clock is Ticking to Spend ESSER Funds

An opportunity to support your learners and educators

As we are all keenly aware, more students than ever have experienced interrupted learning and radically different learning trajectories during the past few years. Because of this, states and school districts are in the throes of important decisions — which interventions and strategies to mitigate these impacts and which learning models and instructional practices to leverage the positive lessons learned. ESSER dollars offer an incredible opportunity to alleviate the effects of interrupted learning with programs that emerged because of, and despite of, the pandemic. This blog reviews some details of ESSER funding and looks at some upcoming opportunities.

ESSER refresher

$13.2 billion in ESSER I funds were due September 30, 2022; the next looming deadline is September 30, 2023 to spend $54.3 billion in ESSER II funds. Allowable uses include:

  • Technologies that enable education, e.g., software and hardware
  • Summer learning programs
  • After-school and enrichment programs
  • Student mental health support and services
  • Support for disadvantaged subgroups
  • Addressing the needs of students who require extra support, e.g., FRL, those with disabilities, English language learners, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care
  • Improving student assessments to track student learning progress, tracking student attendance
  • Assisting and educating parents in how they can support students
September 30

Along with “technology” which is noted at the top of the list, all of these items can be addressed in part through the use of digital learning strategies and/or online tools and resources.

In addition, $122 billion in ARP (American Rescue Plan) ESSER III funds must be obligated by September 30, 2024, and states must subgrant 90 percent of their allocations to local education agencies (LEA).

  • 20 percent of the funds are required to be used for “interventions that respond to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID 19 on underrepresented student subgroups,” according to Burbio.
  • Remaining LEA funds may be used to address other needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic

Overall, about 99.5% of the ESSER I funding has been spent; 72.3 percent of ESSER II; and about 32 percent of ARP ESSER. According to an analysis by Burbio, school districts have been spending ESSER III dollars on the following:

  • Academic intervention/learning loss: 27.4% (e.g., $1.7 billion on tutoring across 1,279 districts)
  • Staffing: 24.4%
  • Facilities and operations: 23.9%
  • Technology: 9.7% (e.g., $2.7 billion on student mobile devices across 1,528 districts)
  • Mental and physical health: 7.2%
  • Miscellaneous financials: 5.6%

The clock is ticking…

ESSER funding, and the ingenuity and dedication of so many educators, provides avenues of exploration to better serve the many students impacted by the pandemic. Your challenge is to choose how to invest in strategies that increase equity, are scalable, and sustainable. This is an immense opportunity to move from what started as emergency remote learning to personalized learning and interventions that provide targeted support to students. Carefully chosen curriculum, technology, and systems, combined with the power of human capital, can deliver the evidence-based results expected from this boosted funding.

The reality is that many LEAs have not yet used the ESSER funds available to them. With 16 months to spend, districts are edging closer to the 2024-2025 fiscal cliff. Students will face interrupted learning again if programs or support end abruptly, and historically, the deepest cuts often impact our neediest students the most.

How StrongMind can help

StrongMind can help in a number of ways:

  • Refresh your understanding of ESSER II, ARP ESSER, and other federal funding — how they can be used, reporting requirements, deadlines, and local and state guidance. COVID Funding Federal Funding Opportunities 
  • Develop a comprehensive plan for using ESSER funds — identify the greatest needs of your students and seek input, consensus, and buy-in from stakeholders, including students, teachers, parents, and community members.
  • Quantify and share success stories — demonstrate the importance of these funds in supporting student learning and improving teaching.
  • Collaborate with other school districts — learn from other district leaders what’s working and combine power to advocate for ESSER funds at the state and federal levels.

Devising a plan on how best to use ESSER funds is a complex opportunity to enrich the learning and lives of your students. With the clock ticking, make the most of your ESSER funds to create sustainable change.

StrongMind’s curriculum and courses, platform, and SEL support can help you leverage ESSER funds to reach your district’s instructional goals through online learning, hybrid programs, summer school, and other avenues. Contact us to find out more!


StrongMind has over 20 years of experience supporting virtual and online for K-12 schools and districts. We know what it takes to build strong communities within flexible learning environments and elevate the learning experience for students.