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What We Know About ESSER III Funding

ESSER III’s school district requirements are slowly being rolled out. In a weekly meeting I attend with Tom Cameron and Associates, Sherri Prentice shared the latest information on upcoming ESSER III requirements and was gracious enough to share them with me in a brief note below:

Three due dates are set right now, even if you roll the funds over by deleting the app before June 30:

  1. States must give 2/3rds of the ESSER III money to districts by May 24, 2021.
  2. Districts must upload their Safe Return Plan on their website by June 22. Schools need to note the date uploaded and record the exact webpage's URL where the plan is housed so you can include that information on the 21-22 application.
  3. Districts must also upload their Use of Funds Plan on their website by August 19. This will need to be uploaded into the 21-22 application in the fall.  

The Use of Funds Plan requires a community approval of how the money should be budgeted. This process must be submitted and posted on the district website. We are continuously being reminded in every training I watch that this is a required community effort--not just our normal Title I or G/T public meeting. The idea is to have as much community participation as possible to meet the meeting requirement.  

As far as spending goes, the national trends are:

We’re seeing lots of this:

  • Thank you payments to staff
  • Filling budget gaps
  • Plans to hire counselors, nurses, specialists
  • Class size reduction (hiring more teachers)
  • Facilities projects
  • Tech/Curriculum updates
  • Planning time for staff

We're not seeing much of this:

  • Tutoring
  • Added weeks to the school year
  • Pass-through allocations to schools
  • Customized options for families
  • New delivery models
  • New content/course options

When you look at the We’re seeing lots of this list, you probably realize most of this spending is the same. A lot of this is for the adults in the building and is not student focused. The other issue we see here is many one-size-fits-all spending plans that don't target high-needs students. Georgetown presented an important point to consider on this. Class size reductions and plans to hire new personnel can present a major issue when funding cliffs occur. There is nothing wrong with hiring people; these are needed jobs in most LEAs, but it can become problematic when the ESSER III money is gone and the LEA must continue paying these people. Be cautious in these decisions.

The filling budget gaps portion is understandable. However, please think before you do this. If you are already overstaffed, consider getting your staffing better aligned before the fiscal cliff in two to three years. You can’t paint over a hole in the wall and hit it forever; sometimes hard things need to be done sooner rather than later.  

Before you get into the heavy decision-making portion of ESSER III, review the We're not seeing much of this list. We must hold back 20% of this money to address learning loss. This second list above is full of methods to address students' learning loss. Remember you must benchmark the students with a progressive benchmark to find what the student's learning level is and diagnose gaps in their knowledge and skills.  

If we can help you with any of these decisions, please give us a call. We know trying to hang on funds is hard but spending them can be just as difficult.  

Andy Evans

Director, Finance

Andy serves as the Finance Director for OPSRC. In this role, he provides help in financial and business-related areas for schools. This includes budgets, managing cash flow, Estimate of Needs, federal programs and general service to aid in the effective use of district resources. Additionally, Andy serves as a resource in customizing budget spreadsheets, projection sheets, and other financial tools essential to administrators in maintaining their district’s financial health.

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