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About 43%, or $6.1 billion, of federal COVID-19 emergency funds that states have passed on to districts were used to meet students' academic, social, emotional and other needs. These activities represented the largest category of district expenditures during states' fiscal year 2021, a report released late last month by the U.S. Department of Education said
Spending on safely reopening schools for in-person learning and expenses related to physical health and safety in schools accounted for the second and third largest shares, respectively, of ESSER subgrants to districts.
The report said while there are "hopeful signs of recovery," education leaders and their communities at every level need to continue maximizing ESSER funds and other federal, state and local resources to address student needs.
Specifically, the report mentioned academic support through high-dosage tutoring programs and high-quality summer learning and after-school programs. Also emphasized was ensuring adequate staffing levels and mental health supports for students.
This analysis of states' spending activity only covers fiscal 2021, which began in 2020 and ended June 30, 2021, for the majority of state education agencies. Since the American Rescue Plan legislation was not approved by Congress until March 2021, districts may not have had access to its funding or spending plans by the end of FY 2021.
Here's a glimpse at some of the key figures in the report:
By the numbers
More than 75%
The portion of districts that reported implementing one or more student re-engagement strategies to encourage underserved students to transition back to in-person learning.
More than 2,700
The number of school districts that used ESSER funds for mental health supports, including hiring additional school counselors and school psychologists, and providing professional development for staff.
The percentage of districts' expended funds that went toward staffing needs, such as salaries and benefits for additional personnel.
The portion of districts spending money on "cleaning and disinfection" among those reporting the use of ESSER funding to maintain safe in-person instruction.
More than 40%
The percentage of districts that used ESSER funds to provide at least one type of home internet access to students. Mobile hotspots with paid data plans were the most common support.
Sept. 30, 2022
The date by which districts had to obligate ESSER I funds. The deadlines for ESSER II and ESSER III-ARP obligations are Sept. 30, 2023, and Sept. 30, 2024, respectively.
The amount in ESSER I, II and III expenditures by districts in FY 2021.
The amount of district subgrants spent or budgeted by districts in FY 2021. This accounts for just over half (54.5%) of the total ESSER allocation of $189.5 billion.
Safety and security has been a growing concern for school districts, with shootings reaching an unprecedented high in 2022 and new techologies to address the solution coming with security concerns of their own.