What K-12 Schools Can Do with Congressional COVID Funding

June 1, 2020
What K-12 Schools Can Do with Congressional COVID Funding

Roberta Miceli | Interim VP

On March 13, 2020, in response to the extraordinary threat created by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump signed the CARES Act for the singular purpose of supporting States in addressing their needs. Of the $2 trillion in emergency assistance authorized through the Act, Congress set aside $13.2 billion specifically for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

The primary purpose of the ESSER funds is to support continued learning for K-12 students whose education has been disrupted by the coronavirus. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, was clear in her message to States saying, “Now is the time to truly rethink education and get creative about how we meet each student’s unique needs.”

So, what does this mean for you? 

How can you advocate to ensure the funds are used to meet the needs of English Learners (ELs), one of the groups of students impacted most severely by the pandemic?

Recognize that States and school districts have lots of flexibility with the funds.  

States and school districts can use the funds to meet the immediate needs of students whose learning has been disrupted. Education leaders can use the funds for distance learning tools and resources to include hardware, broadband access, training for parents and curriculum resources to name a few.

Leaders can also use the funds for professional development for teachers and other staff members who had to pivot to providing instruction in a virtual environment almost overnight. Funds can also be used to provide social and emotional support for students, staff and parents.  Planning and implementing those plans for the next schools are also allowable uses of the funds.

Professional development for teachers, staff and parents is an allowable use of the funds.

In their application for the funds, States can request a waiver from the narrow definition of professional development in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). With this waiver, States and schools districts have broad flexibility in using the funds for a variety of professional development needs including supporting virtual professional learning communities, networking with other States and school districts with experience in delivering instructional through virtual platforms, developing curriculum and identifying resources that support high-quality instruction in a virtual space.

How much does my state get?

States are receiving the ESSERS funds in the same proportion that they received their FY2019 Title I allocation. It then follows that States must allocate the funds to the school districts in their state in the same proportion as their FY2019 Title I funds. Find out how much your State has been allocated here.

What K-12 Schools Can Do....

Local leaders are empowered to use the CARES Act funds to meet their unique needs as long as the funds comply with federal education laws and address issues that have arisen due to COVID-19.

Advocating for the needs of EL students.

Knowledge is key: ask questions about how the ESSERS funds are being allocated. Make the needs of EL students, teachers and parent known. Help your school and district drive the funding to support the students who need it the most.

Still have questions?

Need help navigating the federal and state requirements? Please contact Roberta Miceli at rmiceli@cal.org.