Expectations for ESSER: The benefits and limits of the historic investment
“Mind-boggling.” That’s how one administrator describes the ability of her district to rapidly pay for a vast number of programs in response to hardships and setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
School systems have received an historic amount of federal funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program, known as ESSER. In some districts, the allocations add up to as much as a quarter to half of their annual budgets.
While money from ESSER has allowed school systems to spend on projects most needed in their communities — whether it’s replacing dysfunctional HVAC systems, opening summer learning programs to all students, or even both — leaders are under pressure to prove these investments are being spent appropriately and effectively. There’s also pressure to develop learning recovery programs that are stronger than what was in place pre-pandemic.
In this Expectations for ESSER series, we highlight the various goals educators, advocates and observers have for ESSER spending, as well as the variety of challenges and the many benefits the funding has brought to pre-K-12 school systems during these difficult times. We’ve gathered all three parts here for you to read and share with colleagues.