The COVID-19 pandemic has tested education systems like never before, ushering in an unprecedented level of federal funding for K-12 education. As districts and schools face ongoing emergencies on multiple fronts, including student and staff mental health, teacher shortages and unfinished learning, states are playing important leadership roles and leveraging federal and state resources to bring about an effective and equitable pandemic recovery for all students. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is honored to support states in these efforts, including through our COVID Relief Data Project.
What is the COVID Relief Data Project?
CCSSO launched the COVID Relief Data Project to research and analyze how states are using federal funding appropriated to state education agencies through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, or ESSER.
States received nearly $190 billion in ESSER funds across three rounds of funding. This project tracks the 10%, approximately $19 billion, allocated to address statewide needs through a state set aside.
How much of these funds have states spent, and when is the deadline?
Most states are using federal relief funds in the order they were received and are on track to ensure funds are committed – including awards, contracts, obligations and other legally binding commitments, by congressionally-mandated deadlines.
As of August 2022, states have committed, budgeted or made plans for
- 99% of the $1.32 billion from CARES Act/ESSER I. Funding must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2022 deadline.
- 88% of the $5.43 billion from CRSSA/ESSER II. Funding must be obligated by September 2023.
- 86% of the $12.2 billion from ARP/ESSER III. Funding must be obligated by September 2024.
How are states spending this funding?
Notable investments across states and funding packages include:
- $4 billion directed to tutoring and accelerated learning initiatives and $2.4 billion directed to out of school time programs such as before school, afterschool and summer enrichment programs
- $1.4 billion in efforts to address critical educator staffing challenges through teacher recruitment/retention initiatives, support for statewide communities of practice and leadership development programs.
- $1.4 billion to help close the digital divide and support access to high-quality remote learning opportunities.
- $1 billion to address student and staff wellbeing and connection through initiatives to improve mental health, support social-emotional development and provide wraparound support services to students.
Which students are supported by this federal funding?
Early evidence shows that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted students in high-poverty schools, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities and LGBTQ+ students, and some states are choosing to set up programs to reach those groups specifically.
To date, $3.8 billion of ESSER reserve funding is supporting economically disadvantaged students, $1 billion is focusing on children with disabilities and $903 million is aiding English Learners.
(Please note: States also received separate funding to supplement support for students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness and other targeted student populations, which is not included in this data.)
Why do spending timelines differ from state to state?
To understand how states are approaching ESSER implementation, it is important to consider state context. While some state education agencies can develop their own budgets, many require authorization from the state board of education or the state legislature before they can award or obligate federal funds. This has led to myriad different approaches to how states prioritize, budget and award their funds.
In addition, the data shown in CCSSO’s COVID Relief Data Project may appear different than data published through other ESSER reporting projects. This is due to the nature of federal fiscal reporting, where through the federal system, these commitments are not reported until contracts are completed and money is drawn down. CCSSO’s analysis shows funding that has been committed through contracts, awards and obligations, which better illuminates whether the recipient is on track to spend down funds during the grant period. (Read more on this subject here).
Congress intended for ESSER funds both to address immediate pandemic-related needs and assist with long-term recovery. As state education agencies continue to oversee a massive project to recover from the effects of the pandemic, they are making the most of their ESSER reserve funds over the full grant period to provide continued support to their students, schools and communities.
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