If you’re involved in the world of education, you’ve likely heard of the Esser funds that have been made available to schools across the country. These funds are part of the CARES Act and are intended to help schools navigate the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The question is, what can Esser funds be spent on?
Well, the short answer is that they can be spent on a wide variety of things. In general, the funds are meant to help schools cover the costs associated with responding to COVID-19. This can include things like purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), funding remote learning initiatives, and providing additional mental health services to students.
Of course, the specific ways that schools choose to use their Esser funds will depend on a number of factors. For example, schools with higher rates of COVID-19 transmission might focus more on purchasing PPE, while those with robust distance learning programs might instead choose to use the funds to improve their technology infrastructure. Ultimately, the key is to use the funds in ways that will best benefit students and staff in the face of this ongoing crisis.
Eligible Expenses for Esser Funds
The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund is a relief fund created by the U.S. government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund seeks to provide support to schools as they navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic and ensure that children continue to receive a quality education. It is important to note that the ESSER Fund is subject to strict guidelines and regulations that dictate how the money can be spent. Schools must adhere to the eligible expenses outlined in the Fund’s parameters to ensure that they receive funding for necessary initiatives and projects, and avoid penalties or forfeiture of the funds.
- COVID-19 response expenses – Schools can use ESSER funds to address COVID-19 related expenses, such as purchasing personal protective equipment (PPEs), providing professional development resources for staff, and investing in health and safety measures.
- Technology-related expenses – In this era of remote or blended learning, schools can procure devices, software, and internet connectivity to support students and staff. ESSER funds can be utilized to cater to these needs in schools with limited resources.
- Social and emotional learning – Schools can invest in counseling programs and education resources to support children’s mental health as they navigate pandemic-related stressors.
- Facilities maintenance – School facilities maintenance takes a considerable portion of any institution’s budget. ESSER funds are eligible to be used for maintenance and repair projects that would improve schools’ infrastructures. For example, schools can use the funds for improving ventilation systems that would improve air quality in schools.
ESSER Funds have proven to be a valuable resource for schools that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Although the funds come with strict guidelines, schools can utilize the money to cover many different expenses, from COVID-19 protections to technological needs and general facility upkeep. By understanding the eligible expenses for ESSER Funds, schools can make informed decisions and meet the needs of their students and staff.
Guidelines for Esser Funds Spending
As schools and institutions receive Esser funds, it is important to understand the guidelines and restrictions surrounding the spending of these funds. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Esser funds must be used for allowable uses, such as preventing, preparing for, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Esser funds cannot be used for general expenses or to replace existing funding.
- Esser funds must be spent by the deadline indicated in the grant award.
It is also important to note that there are specific regulations and guidance provided by the Department of Education for the spending of Esser funds. Institutions should review this guidance carefully to ensure compliance.
Permitted Uses of Esser Funds
- Purchasing sanitizing and cleaning supplies to maintain a safe learning environment.
- Improving ventilation systems to ensure proper air circulation and filtration.
- Providing mental health support and counseling services to address the emotional impact of the pandemic.
These are just some examples of the permitted uses for Esser funds. In general, any spending must be directly related to the prevention and response to the pandemic.
Examples of Allowable Expenses
Below is a table of examples of allowable expenses for Esser funds:
|PPE and safety equipment||Masks, gloves, shields, etc. to protect students and staff.|
|Technology and devices||Laptops, tablets, and Wi-Fi hotspots for remote learning.|
|Professional development||Training for teachers and staff to implement new safety measures or remote learning.|
As institutions plan their use of Esser funds, it is crucial to keep these guidelines and examples in mind to ensure that the funds are used effectively and in accordance with regulations.
Budgeting for Esser Funds Appropriation
When it comes to using Esser funds, creating a budget is crucial to ensure that the funds are being used effectively and efficiently. The following are some important factors to consider when budgeting for Esser funds appropriation.
- Assessing Needs: Before deciding on how to use Esser funds, it is important to assess the needs of the district or school. This includes identifying areas that need improvement such as technology upgrades, mental health services, or teacher training programs. Prioritizing these needs can help in deciding where to allocate the funds.
- Collaboration: Collaboration between district and school leadership, teachers, and staff is essential when budgeting for Esser funds. Involving stakeholders in the process can provide valuable input and ensure that funds are being used effectively.
- Flexibility: It is important to keep in mind that Esser funds can be used over multiple years, so creating a multi-year budget can help in ensuring the funds are being used to support long-term goals. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education has provided flexibility in how the funds can be used, allowing districts and schools to adapt their plans as needed to respond to changing circumstances.
When creating a budget for Esser funds appropriation, it is also important to consider the following table of allowable uses by the U.S. Department of Education:
|Any activity authorized by the ESEA, IDEA, AEFLA, Perkins V||ESSER funds may be used for any activity authorized by these federal education laws|
|Coordination of preparedness and response efforts||Funds may be used to coordinate preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies with state, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments and other relevant agencies to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus|
|Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or those with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, and students experiencing homelessness||This includes different activities such as tutoring, counseling, providing medical care, protective equipment, summer learning, after school programs, transportation for students|
|Purchasing educational technology (software, hardware, connectivity)||Funds may be used to purchase educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and children with disabilities|
|Professional development for district staff||Funds may be used for professional development for educators and other staff of the local educational agency on sanitization, the use of personal protective equipment, and other health and safety protocols|
|Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff||Funds may be used to support other activities necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff, such as providing paid sick leave to staff, implementing social distancing guidelines, addressing the unique needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, and English learners, and purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local educational agency|
By considering the needs of the district or school, collaborating with stakeholders, thinking about long-term goals, and using the table of allowable uses, educators and administrators can create an effective budget for Esser funds appropriation to help improve student outcomes.
Educational Technology Purchases using Esser Funds
The Esser Funds, or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds, provide districts and schools with much-needed funding to address the challenges and issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the areas where Esser Funds can be applied is educational technology. Here’s a closer look at what educational technology purchases can be made using Esser Funds.
- Devices – Schools can use Esser Funds to purchase laptops, tablets, or other devices that students need to facilitate distance learning. These devices can be given to students who may not have access to technology at home, bridging the digital divide and ensuring equitable access to education.
- Software and Licenses – Districts can use Esser Funds to purchase software and licensing for a wide range of online tools and educational software. Some of the most popular include learning management systems, online textbooks, productivity tools, and specialized educational software.
- Internet Access – Schools can use Esser Funds to provide internet connectivity to students who may not have it at home. This includes purchasing hotspots or other devices that allow students to access the internet from home, ensuring that they can attend online classes and complete schoolwork.
In addition to devices and software, districts can use Esser Funds to purchase educational assessment tools. These tools allow educators to assess students’ progress, identify areas of strength and weakness, and personalize learning plans for each student. Examples of educational assessment tools include digital testing and grading software and programs that allow teachers to monitor student progress in real-time.
Finally, districts can use Esser Funds to provide teachers and staff with the necessary training to effectively use new technological tools and platforms. This can include hiring technology coaches or trainers, paying for professional development courses, or creating internal training programs. Ensuring that teachers and staff are trained on new technology is crucial to its successful implementation and helps to ensure that students get the most out of their educational technology purchases.
|Devices||Laptops, tablets, or other devices|
|Software and Licenses||School Management software, online textbooks, productivity tools etc.|
|Internet Access||Providing internet to students who may not have it at home|
|Assessment Tools||Digital testing and grading software, programs that allow teachers to monitor progress|
|Training||Training for Teachers and staff|
Educational technology is more important than ever, given the current pandemic climate. By using Esser Funds to invest in educational technology, districts can ensure that all students have access to the technology they need to participate in online learning and be successful academically. Furthermore, such purchases prepare students for the future by introducing them to cutting-edge technology and practices.
Investing in Workforce Development and Training using Esser Funds
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, schools across the country are facing new and unexpected challenges. One of the key ways that schools can use their Esser funds is to invest in workforce development and training. By doing so, they can ensure that their teachers and staff members are prepared to handle these new challenges and provide the best education possible for their students. Here are some of the ways that Esser funds can be used to invest in workforce development and training:
- Professional development programs: With Esser funds, schools can put in place professional development programs for their teachers and staff. These programs can cover a wide range of topics, including distance learning, technology skills, and mental health support for students. By providing ongoing professional development opportunities for their educators, schools can ensure that their staff remains up-to-date and equipped with the necessary skills to meet the needs of their students.
- Mentoring and coaching: Esser funds can also be used to provide mentoring and coaching services for teachers who are new to virtual teaching or who are struggling to adapt to the new normal. These programs can help teachers stay motivated and engaged, improve their teaching skills, and build confidence in their ability to teach effectively in a virtual or hybrid environment.
- Technology and infrastructure: Another way that schools can use Esser funds to invest in workforce development and training is by providing technology and infrastructure upgrades. This can include purchasing new laptops or tablets for teachers, investing in software programs that facilitate virtual learning, or upgrading internet connectivity in classrooms and remote learning environments.
While investing in workforce development and training using Esser funds may require an upfront investment, it can yield significant long-term benefits for schools and their students. By ensuring that their teachers and staff members have the necessary skills and resources to adapt to the ongoing challenges brought about by the pandemic, schools can provide a high-quality education that prepares students for success both now and in the future.
Below is an example of how Esser funds can be used to invest in technology and infrastructure:
|Use of Esser Funds||Description||Cost|
|New laptops and tablets||Provides teachers with the necessary equipment to carry out virtual teaching and grading||$50,000|
|Software programs for virtual learning||Facilitates virtual teaching and provides students with engaging and interactive learning tools||$25,000|
|Internet connectivity upgrades||Provides reliable internet connectivity in the classroom and in remote learning environments||$10,000|
By investing in technology and infrastructure using Esser funds, schools can improve the quality of the virtual learning experience for both teachers and students and help ensure that their staff members are properly equipped to handle the challenges of virtual learning.
Upgrading Schools’ HVAC Systems with Esser Funds
One of the most crucial projects schools can undertake with their Esser Funds is upgrading their HVAC systems. COVID-19 has brought to light that proper ventilation and air filtration are essential in maintaining a healthy learning environment. Here’s why upgrading your school’s HVAC system with Esser Funds is a wise decision:
- Improved Indoor Air Quality – A properly functioning HVAC system can drastically improve indoor air quality, which is essential for student and faculty health and comfort. Poor indoor air quality can cause respiratory issues, headaches, and fatigue, making it challenging for students to focus and learn.
- Energy Efficiency – Upgrading your HVAC system can also lead to significant energy savings, which will save the school money in the long run. Newer systems are designed to be much more energy-efficient, which can have a positive impact on the environment as well.
- Compliance with Regulations – Schools must adhere to several regulations concerning indoor air quality, ventilation, and temperature control. By upgrading their HVAC system with Esser Funds, schools can ensure compliance with these regulations.
It’s essential to keep in mind that upgrading an HVAC system requires careful planning and coordination. Before investing in a new system, the school must consider several factors, such as the size of the building, the number of students, and the existing infrastructure. The cost of the project can also vary depending on the complexity of the installation and the equipment needed.
If you’re considering upgrading your school’s HVAC system, it’s essential to partner with experienced professionals who understand the unique requirements of educational institutions. They can guide you through the entire process, from design to installation, and ensure that the project meets all safety and regulatory compliance standards.
|Benefits of Upgrading Schools’ HVAC Systems with Esser Funds|
|Improved indoor air quality||Energy efficiency|
|Compliance with regulations||Long-term cost savings|
Overall, investing in upgrading your school’s HVAC system with Esser Funds is an excellent choice for improving the learning environment for students and faculty. It ensures compliance with essential regulations, creates a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment, and can lead to long-term energy savings.
Allocating Esser Funds for Mental Health and Wellness Programs
As schools across the country prepare for in-person instruction this fall, the allocation of Esser funds has become a key topic of discussion. One area of focus for many institutions is the implementation of mental health and wellness programs for students and staff. Here are some important considerations for allocating Esser funds towards these efforts:
Benefits of Mental Health and Wellness Programs
- Improved academic performance: Students who receive support for their mental health needs are better able to focus on their studies and are more likely to achieve academic success.
- Reduced absenteeism: Students who struggle with mental health issues are often absent from school more frequently. Mental health and wellness programs can help reduce absenteeism rates and keep students engaged in their studies.
- Improved overall health: Mental health and physical health are closely linked. Improving mental health can have positive impacts on physical health, and vice versa.
Implementing Mental Health and Wellness Programs
When implementing mental health and wellness programs, it is important to approach the process with care and attention to detail. Here are some tips:
- Conduct a needs assessment: Before developing any program, it is important to determine the specific needs of your student population. This can include assessing rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health concerns.
- Partner with experts: Mental health and wellness programs require specialized knowledge and expertise. Consider partnering with experts in the field to develop and implement programs.
- Involve students and families: Involving students and families in the program development process can help ensure that programs are tailored to meet the unique needs of your community.
Funding Mental Health and Wellness Programs
The most common uses of Esser funds for mental health and wellness programs include:
|Staffing||Hiring additional counseling and support staff to meet the needs of students.|
|Training||Providing training for existing staff on how to recognize and support students who are struggling with mental health issues.|
|Program development||Developing new mental health and wellness programs tailored to the needs of your student population.|
Allocating Esser funds towards mental health and wellness programs can have a significant positive impact on the overall health and academic success of your students. With careful planning and attention to detail, these programs can be developed and implemented successfully.
FAQs: What can ESSER funds be spent on?
1. What are ESSER funds and where do they come from?
Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ESSER) are allocated by the government to support K-12 schools in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. ESSER funds are made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
2. What are some of the eligible expenses for ESSER funds?
ESSER funds can be used for expenses directly related to addressing the impact of COVID-19 on the school community, such as technology purchases, facility upgrades to improve air quality, increasing teachers and staff, and other interventions.
3. Can ESSER funds be used for salary increases for teachers and staff?
It depends on the state and local guidelines. In some cases, ESSER funds can be used for salary increases to retain and recruit additional staff members.
4. Can ESSER funds be used for building construction?
Yes, ESSER funds can be used for facility upgrades, renovations, and construction projects that prioritize health and safety, such as improving ventilation or adding additional handwashing stations.
5. Can ESSER funds be used for student transportation costs?
Yes, ESSER funds can be used for transportation costs related to ensuring students are able to safely attend school during the pandemic, such as increased costs of cleaning school buses or additional transportation to accommodate social distancing protocols.
6. Can ESSER funds be used for after-school programs or extracurricular activities?
Yes, ESSER funds can be used for after-school programs or extracurricular activities that support student well-being, mental health, and academic achievement during and following the pandemic.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about what ESSER funds can be spent on. As the pandemic continues to impact our schools, it’s important to understand the resources available to support our students and teachers. Keep coming back for more information and updates on how schools are using ESSER funds to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.