Equitably Spending Down & Sustaining ESSER Funds

The last of the $190 billion in federal COVID-19 relief dollars, distributed to states and school districts through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, will end in September 2024. This one-time emergency funding helped districts address the immediate impact of the pandemic on student learning and fund programs to help address a wide range of student needs, including tutoring and summer learning programs, mental health supports, upgrading facilities, technology, and activities to re-engage students and their families.

As the clock ticks on spending ESSER funds, district leaders will have to rewrite budgets without this federal aid. Painful cuts seem inevitable for many districts. This loss could be especially devastating for students attending schools in high-poverty districts and districts with the largest percentage of students of color. This is because these districts received the most in federal ESSER dollars, and too often, are otherwise under-resourced to begin with.

When making these difficult decisions, it’s important for district leaders to keep equity at the forefront of their minds, so that budgetary decisions don’t have an outsized impact on the students who need these funds the most. They can work to find other sources of funding for successful programs when possible, and when cuts are required, they need to be made in a way that minimizes harm to underserved student groups.

While schools continue to address long standing inequities that were exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic, it’s essential that districts’ limited resources—including remaining ESSER funds—are being used to equitably address student needs. No students should have to suffer just because ESSER funding dries up.

The Alliance for Resource Equity (ARE) and partner organizations have created several resources for advocates to understand these issues and discuss how district and state leaders can support students.


Advocacy Templates

Downloadable MS Word templates with customizable fields for your organization’s logo.

ESSER Funding and Sustainability Key Takeaways
This resource outlines key talking points advocates and district leaders can use when communicating about the importance of equity with the upcoming ESSER fiscal cliff. It was created by the Rapid Response Desk for Educational Equity, a collaborative of 12 organizations with a shared goal to advance whole child equity in the policy response to coronavirus at the federal, state, and, as appropriate, local levels.

ESSER Funding School Board Resolution
Also created by the Rapid Response Desk for Educational Equity, this resource provides school board resolution language for advocates to prioritize an equitable spend down of remaining ESSER funds, as well as language to call on their state legislature to provide funding to address the losses that districts will be facing from the end of these federal funds.