Dialogue with Pedagogues September Newsletter, Issue II: ESSER Funding
For our September Newsletter, our team at Dialogue with Pedagogues decided to tackle the important issue of ESSER funding. We recognize that this issue is not nearly as attention-grabbing or clickable as CRT and mask mandate debates; however, our team would argue that this issue is of equal importance for school leaders, and the American public, to be informed on as we head into SY 21–22.
If you are new to our newsletter, here is a quick rundown of how our team approaches the work each month. We start with a pressing education issue, September’s focus is ESSER funding, and then we curate a variety of different sources and opinions to ensure our readers have a common foundation to approach the topic. We provide you with a quick synopsis of each article and a link to pursue the full read at your convenience.
The two other important pieces to our newsletter include two commentaries by our contributing writers and an interview with a leader or practitioner in the field. To keep things interesting, our team rotates the roles each month.
Our commentaries this month feature Jamie Zinck’s piece, The ESSER Lesson, and John Boumgarden’s complement, Money Matters: Guiding Principles for ESSER Funding. Each of them offers a unique perspective for how school leaders should thoughtfully approach this moment of unprecedented funding. For our interview feature, Sarah L. Evans had the privilege of grabbing some time with Dr. Kerri Randolph, Executive Officer of Strategic Federal, State and Philanthropic Investments for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), and penned a wonderful interview titled, ESSER Funding and MNPS Priorities. We are extremely thankful for Dr. Randolph’s leadership and could not be more excited to elevate the strategic thinking she leads on behalf of MNPS.
In partnership with Future Ed, Brooke LePage and Phyllis W. Jordan, from The 74, provide a comprehensive, and visually informative, piece highlighting how each state internalized and made recommendations for their ESSER funds. If you are new to the world of ESSER funding, we recommend you start here as the articles further down in this snapshot provide a closer look into the weeds of school finance matters.
The FutureEd at Georgetown team offers a deep dive into how Congressional Covid Funding is playing out across each state. From a visual standpoint, their website is equipped with helpful and easy-to-read tables on each round of congressional funding and shows you where it ultimately is going. Their links and spreadsheets are incredibly helpful if you theoretically wanted to compare how Alaska’s plans might differ from Arizona’s. Additionally, Future ED regularly updates its site about which state plans have been submitted and approved.
ERS provides a thoughtful primer around how to best strategize and use one-time ESSER funds for longer-term, sustainable initiatives. Their four strategic lenses provide a robust starting point to ensure district leaders are taking on this work with equitable and sustainable distribution and prioritization at the forefront.
- Size the full cost of implementing strategies over time
- Integrate all funding sources and stretch over the window for investment
- Invest in building bridges to new ways of organizing
- Plan out how spending and organization will shift to sustain critical investments over time
We view this as a playbook to guide district leaders in thinking through their vision for ESSER funding as an opportunity for substantial reimagination.
Marguerite Roza and Chad Adelman of Education Next argue that education leaders should be open to non-traditional methods for how the ESSER funds might be used. They argue that hiring more staff should not be a priority for this one-time influx of federal funds for a variety of reasons. As alternatives, they float tutoring and technology as investments that education leaders should consider before heading into next budget season. We are excited to hear the innovative ways that districts use these unprecedented funds to meet the needs of students in the immediate and longer term.
As always, we look forward to your ongoing readership and dialogue with us. Please share your thoughts and feedback with us, as well as any interesting topics or articles you would like us to feature. Thanks for reading.