Three Ways to Build a Bridge Over the ESSER Funding Cliff

Nov 08, 2023
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We are reaching the end of our federal relief education dollars, with ESSER II’s spending deadline passing on September 30, 2023, followed by ARP/ESSER III on September 30, 2024.

A June 2023 survey administered by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, found fifty-three percent of district leaders indicated they would be forced to decrease staffing for specialist staff, such as behavioral health personnel, tutors, and reading specialists, before the 2024-25 school year due to the end of federal relief funds. Fifty-one percent indicated they would cut summer learning programming.

With teachers still needing to address learning loss for their students from the impact of Covid-19, With students still needing to catch up to pre-pandemic learning levels, how can districts avoid a gutted budget following three years of unprecedented injection of funds?

1. Contract-Out

Schools can reduce the risk of losing all ESSER funded purchases at once by utilizing multi-year contract options.

Under recently updated guidance from the Department of Education in December 2022 and June 2023, districts can sign multi-year licensing contracts, pay for the contract before the final liquidation date, and receive services for up to four years following the obligation deadline.

This way, if your school cannot allocate immediate replacement funding for a product or service, you can have extra time to do so while still keeping those supports for students.

Success Stories

When introducing a new program, implementation is key. A solution cannot be fully integrated in a single school year; allowing for a multi-year rollout provides opportunities for continuous improvement and consistency. 

In January 2020, school leaders at Mitchell Community Schools (MCS) in Mitchell, Indiana, began a pilot of Exact Path, Edmentum’s diagnostic-driven individualized learning program that has since turned into a complete K–12 implementation. Before, as a district using many different learning solutions that offered a plethora of data points, educators found it difficult to build program expertise and strategically act on the data they were getting.

By the end of the 2022-23 school year, every grade K through 6, both in math and reading, was double digits higher than the national average. See the data behind Michel Community Schools' success.

2. Re-Evaluating and Re-Allocating ESSER Funds

Many elementary and secondary schools have very different needs than when they entered the pandemic, and shifting student demographics can drastically change state aid allocation.

Re-assess programs and services introduced before the pandemic to determine if they still meet student needs. Do you have an ESSER investment that has seen a more significant positive impact than a prior investment? It is imperative to measure and communicate student progress on purchases and spending priorities with stakeholders to justify any shift in spending priorities and how they have contributed to the school’s vision and goals.

Need help finding a new funding source to fill a gap in ESSER funds? Check out Edmentum’s Federal Funding & Allowable Uses Guide that crosswalks the specific titles of ESSA, IDEA, & Perkins V’s allowable uses and flexibility against funding activities and Edmentum programs.

Success Stories

During the 2022-2023 school year, Clark County School District (CCSD) implemented a research study on Exact Path with more than 20,000 students spanning kindergarten through grade 10 to assess and improve math. 

Early results in math demonstrated that those students who used Exact Path content and curriculum exhibited higher rates of growth on their NWEA MAP math results, exceeding MAP growth norms, as compared to their peers who did not use Exact Path. Learn more about CCSD’s success story.

3. Use Flexible Learning Technologies to Address Gaps

Leverage virtual teachers to fill vacancies when facing staffing shortages or a need for specialized positions that may be cost-prohibitive. Continue to address learning gaps through personalized learning, even with staffing challenges, by using Exact Path or Apex Tutorials to identify and support those students most in need.

Success Stories

In the fall of 2022, leadership in the Williamsburg County School District in South Carolina, found that locating enough teachers nearly impossible. Because much of Williamsburg County is rural and economically disadvantaged, attracting new educators to the area can be difficult.

A partnership between the Williamsburg County School District and Edmentum took the shape of offering Enhanced Virtual Learning, which is live, on-camera virtual instruction for grades 6–12 delivered by a state-certified virtual teacher using Courseware curriculum. This model of instruction allowed the district not only to offer traditional courses but to also expand its course offerings, keeping students within the school buildings.

Scheduling the classes supported by Edmentum’s virtual teachers followed the district’s bell schedule so that students could easily transition between classes led by in-person and virtual teachers as needed. Learn more about the partnership.

No matter what, administrators will need to make difficult choices in spending. Maintaining open and transparent communication with stakeholders, including parents, teachers, staff, and the community, will be essential to gain support for necessary budget adjustments and funding initiatives.

Don't let funding constraints hold you back. Discover how to access federal grants and resources through our comprehensive Federal Funding Toolkit, designed to empower educators like you to bring innovative ideas to life.

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