Is Your School Ready for Life After ESSER?

10 Steps to Re-Allocate School Funding

For the past four years, ESSER has been a major source of funding for schools across the U.S.—and now, that relief is about to end. Is your school system ready for life after ESSER?

School systems across the U.S. have received billions of dollars in Federal funds through the Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Grant Program—but in 2024, the program is scheduled to end. Officially designated to support pandemic-related needs, ESSER Funds were rolled out with little guidance initially due to the nature of the pandemic and the immediate need for funds to open schools safely. As a result, they became fair game for any programs or resources that could be used to prevent, prepare for, and/or respond to COVID-19. Because the funds were essentially exempt from the Supplement, Not Supplant provision that prohibits Federal funds from being used to replace state, local, or agency funds, many school systems came to rely on them. Schools shifted funding sources as needed to ensure they had all necessary structures in place to keep students in school and address learning gaps from school closures—and the funds were very helpful in doing just that. Now, many schools are struggling to figure out how they can continue to support the programs their students have come to rely on, even in the absence of ESSER funds.

ESSER funds have been used for activities and strategies ranging from simple janitorial supply purchases to extensive software solutions, devices, and equipment. They have even been used to hire teachers, instructional coaches and other staff members, to help overcome learning losses. The funds were released in phases, and with each phase, the Federal government began to implement more guidance on how funds were used. Obligation deadlines were rolled out in phases as well, and the final obligation deadlines are approaching in the last quarter of 2024. Some school systems will be losing millions of dollars because they were not able to meet Federal deadlines or grant requirements—and others will lose funding simply because the ESSER program is ending. Faced with these losses, school systems must make difficult choices about which programs they can sustain, and which may need to be retired. No school wants to lay off staff, reduce technology spending, or stop supporting strategies that are working. So, how can schools determine what to keep, where to cut, and how to make the best decisions for their students and staff?

Here are 10 steps school systems can take to determine which expenses are most essential, identify those that are unnecessary, reduce recurring costs, and move forward with a strong budget after ESSER expires.

1. Gather a group of stakeholders to engage in a Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA).

This process will help your school system identify strengths and prioritize needs to help direct funding. If your school needs support in this process, 806 Technologies offers professional development and training in Comprehensive Needs Assessments.

2. Focus on the data.

Your CNA should look deeply into data trends over the last few years, and use that data to guide decisions about which needs are most pressing, and which strategies are achieving the greatest impact.

3.Prioritize challenges to focus on during the current school year.

Based on your data, determine which priorities are most important in increasing student success.

4. Find the “why” behind each challenge.

Identify the root causes behind the biggest challenges or struggles among learners. Are transportation problems leading to increased absences? Would more library time help improve reading scores? Once you understand why students are struggling, it is easier to find solutions. 

5. Identify the strategies that will best support the improvement of key challenges.

Explore solutions to help solve the challenges you have prioritized, and determine which strategies are most likely to result in success.

6. Determine the cost of the most important strategies.

Note costs for resources, staff, technology, curriculum, supplies, and anything else needed to implement these strategies.

7. Consider which funding sources could be used to support strategies.

Think about restrictions and “allowables” for the different Federal and State funds received by your school system. Which funding sources can support the most important strategies?

8. Ensure essential expenses are funded appropriately.

Look for costs that can be shifted away from federal funds, such as janitorial supplies, and move those items back to the general fund.

9. Eliminate expenses that are not producing results.

Are there technology subscriptions that are not being used? Resources that have run their course? Search for unnecessary costs and remove them from your budget.

10. Ask for help if you need it.

If you need more help with the CNA process, visit the 806 Technologies website for professional learning support and software that can help you identify and prioritize needs, and engage in the CNA process.

Things To Remember

  • Keep clear documentation of funds that are spent                          State and local education agencies are being audited already, and can be for up to five years after the obligation of funds.
  • Regularly monitor inventory
    on equipment and materials purchased with ESSER funds.
  • Properly disposition items
    and maintain disposition records.
  • Consider digitally storing all ESSER records
    in a software system designed to help with Federal compliance, such as Title1Crate.


Want to learn more? Here are a few resources with more information:

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