Innovation Inspiration — #5

About the American Recovery Plan’s $123 Billion Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund

Today’s newsletter is about funding coming to American public schools. How might we use these funds to support students in innovative ways as we power through the pandemic?

So here’s the story…

Last spring, I participated in a series of online salons convened by the Asia Society and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Entitled “Reframing Education for the 22nd Century”, these forums provided an opportunity for a variety of thought leaders to share ideas for encouraging the creative and innovative use of federal funds to benefit all learners. I believe that there is a forthcoming product from these meetings, so stay tuned. The bottom line from these convenings is that we’re faced with a unique and important opportunity in the form of an influx of monies to support students during the pandemic and it’s essential we are thoughtful and creative in using these funds.

This week, The New York Times published a piece about various plans for this American Rescue Plan funding for schools. This article does not paint a particularly flattering picture of how some of this funding may be allocated. This Department of Education press release provides more detail.

Schools Are Receiving $129 Billion in Stimulus Aid. Where Is It Going? — The New York

There’s money for summer schools, tutors, and field trips, but other urgent needs will not be addressed.

When I searched for more information about this stimulus aid, Google ad word campaigns appeared in the search results. Are organizations purchasing ads, knowing that many school leaders are going to be searching the interwebs and looking for guidance? Do these organizations want a piece of the funding pie? I predict tutoring businesses are going to have a banner year for better or for worse.

Sample search result

Educating Myself

I’ve thus taken some time to dig into this topic a bit further. From what I have gleaned, states had until June 7 (with some extensions) to apply for the last portion of the ESSER funding. Many states submitted plans and the approval status of each plan can be seen here. I am curious as to why other states did not submit plans (AZ, CA, CO, FL, MD, MN, MS, PA, VT, VA, and WI), but it seems like many of these states have received funding already and perhaps they are in communication with US Department of Education regarding plans. Funding amounts are determined by Title 1 funding.

Plans need to include evidence-based practices, but there is some leeway with these criteria according to FutureEd, a public policy think tank at Georgetown University. Two places to find research-based products and practices are What Works and the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse.

State agencies have discretion over only 10 percent of the total allocated funding with the remaining 90 percent going to schools districts or charter schools.

Resources For Learning More

Take some time to dig into FutureEd’s materials. This is an incredibly valuable website for school districts.

What Congressional Covid Funding Means for K-12 Schools |
A New Voice for American Education

FutureEd recently published the piece below and set of interactives in 74.

How Are States Spending Their COVID Education Relief Funds? | The
Get essential education news and commentary delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up here for The 74’s daily newsletter. Asked recently by the U.S. Education Department to identify the top issues facing students and schools in the wake of the pandemic, state education officials were remarkably consistent: There’s a strong need to expand learning opportunities […]

See how your state specifically is planning on spending this funding.

How States Are Using Federal Funds for Learning Recovery |
A New Voice for American Education

Examine this spreadsheet that tracks each state’s plans.

FutureEd State Plan Tracking — Google

Recommendation From Others

FutureEd has provided information about 18 recommended evidence-based practices that could be funded through ESSER funding in the form of a covid relief playbook.

Covid Relief Playbook: Smart Strategies for Investing Federal Funding |
A New Voice for American Education

Check out the XQ Institute’s recommendations for using some of these funds for high school transformation.

American Rescue Plan Dollars Are Coming. Let’s Invest Them in High School Transformation. | Rethink
ARP ESSER funding offers America a chance to examine what’s working in education, develop individualized pathways that accelerate student learning, and create coalitions to build a truly fair and effective education system.

Your Thoughts?

How might we reimagine education during this latter part of the pandemic and how might these federal funds support innovation in our field?

Please use this form to tell me what you think of how YOU as an educator and/or parent think funding should be spent in general and specifically, how would you like to see your state and local school system do with this funding.

This document specifically discusses what can be purchased with these funds (I recommend using command + F or control + F to search a document for a specific keyword or phrase) or look at this one-pager.

I may write more about this funding and would love to hear how this funding is helping school districts!

Click Here to Share Your



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lucy Gray

Lucy Gray

Apple Distinguished Educator Lucy Gray is an educator and consultant. She is also the co-founder of Actionable Innovations Global PLC!