Advocating for Education Equity as ESSER Spending Winds Down
Time is running out to spend the unprecedented, one-time federal pandemic-relief funds — the deadline will happen around September 30, 2024. Between now and then, there is an opportunity for families and education advocates to encourage their school district leaders to spend down and sustain investments that are successfully addressing educational inequities. Federal pandemic relief via the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, better known as ESSER, provided states and districts with money to spend on vital resources that address the needs of students, like laptops, mental health resources, and tutoring. But once the money dries up, schools and districts will still need to continue to invest in programs and supports to address unfinished learning, in addition to inequities that existed long before the pandemic.
Watch Out for the Fiscal Cliff
After the ESSER funds expire, district budgets could be slashed by an average of $1,200 per student in the 2024-25 school year, through a combination of declining enrollment and the end of ESSER funds. While states have a key role to play in supporting districts through this transition, district leaders will likely need to make tough choices about what investments and programs will be sustained and which will be cut from district budgets.
To ensure that districts are making these decisions in ways that center equity and improve student outcomes, caregivers, and advocates can ask questions of district leaders in three key areas about existing ESSER investments as the spending deadline approaches:
- How are district ESSER investments equitably addressing the unique needs of students in the district? Are students with the highest need getting access and seeing success?
- What are the stated goals of district ESSER investments? Are these programs achieving their goals? How do we know?
- How do ESSER investments fit into districts’ overall strategy for addressing the needs of students?
This brief and explainer video serve as a guide to help advocates and families learn how to ensure that their district leaders make smart choices about how to budget ESSER funds in their community.