LEAs line up funding sources as the end of ESSER dollars nears

With the availability of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds coming to a close in September and the third and final round of dollars expiring in September 2024 with a liquidation deadline of 120 days after the fact, local educational agencies around the country are looking to secure new funding sources that are strategic and more long term.

Education Week’s recent webinar “Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices” highlighted examples of how New Jersey’s Bergenfield Borough School District and Ohio’s Talawanda School District are using data collected through Panorama Education products to apply for grants to support initiatives like addressing the needs of the whole child and social-emotional learning (SEL).

Both LEAs have been using the company’s SEL platform for the last two-to-three years to collect data through student and teacher surveys. (Panorama Education sponsored the event.)

Using their strategic plans as guides, the districts have focuses such as meeting students’ social-emotional needs through the introduction of supports like wellness centers and fostering equitable, inclusive environments.

According to Panorama Education’s Brianne McCarthy, key practices LEAs use to secure funding include (1) defining explicit goals and priorities for how they’ll support students, (2) identifying funding opportunities related to established priorities, (3) collecting data to prove need, (4) once funding is secured, monitoring progress overtime to ensure programs are implemented with fidelity, and (5) evaluating programming to show the impact of investments and support continued funding.

The districts are using data they’ve collected for grant applications and finding success. Federal Title IV funds to support academic achievement through STEM, academic teams and Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) implementation have become a favorite due to their flexibility, particularly around SEL and mental health.

Talawanda SD’s Director of Teaching and Learning Lindsey Gregg quipped that it covers “everything except the kitchen sink and reading” and said the Stronger Connections grant program under Title IV complements Ohio’s whole child framework which aims to ensure students are safe, healthy, engaged, supported and challenged. The district, like many others, is also partnering with outside organizations and institutions of higher education to fund and foster programs that support the whole child and provide related professional development.

Other federal funding sources covered in the presentation include Title I A, C and D funds to support areas including helping low-income students to close achievement gaps, migrant education programs and helping neglected and delinquent students transition, respectively. Title II supports teacher and principal effective instructional professional development while Title II can be used for multilingual learner programs. Title IV B can be used for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (like after-school programs, college and career prep and SEL) and Title V is designated for rural education needs around MTSS, literacy and math, family engagement, and student and family well-being. Title VI can support various Native American education programs and Title VII covers supports under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Program.

While Title IV and some other funds may not be permanent solutions to district’s financial needs, Bergenfield Borough SD’s Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Darlene Markman noted it is a more consistent funding source overall than ESSER dollars.

View CSBA research and resources on COVID relief spending in California.