Funding Can Help Schools Transition with New Technology During the Pandemic

   

Parent and family engagement is not just a buzzword. It's an essential task for schools, parents, and families.   

During the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption to routines is occurring as schools blend remote and in-classroom learning. Schools can't always efficiently conduct learning assessments online; students are often less engaged with online learning and teachers are caught between two worlds, switching teaching methods for those in the classroom and online.

Add to that list the fact that schools are more culturally diverse than ever and the need to ensure that schools and families remain tethered is even more important.

The key to keeping school communities together, and better parent and family engagement overall, is an investment in technology.

The right technology can improve school-home communication and help ensure educational goals remain on track. Digital tools can help families stay informed and keep your district compliant with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in a remote environment.  

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act are pandemic relief funding packages that include funding for K-12 education. The CARES Act provided over $13 billion in Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER I) funding, The CRRSA Act provided over $54 billion in ESSER II funding, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act includes over $122 billion in ESSER III funding. The total amount of ESSER funding provided in these three funding packages is approximately $190 billion. This is a staggering amount of non-recurring (one-time) funding.

Districts can use ESSER funds from any of the three bills for any ESSA activity, which means that districts can use these funds to purchase products from the TransACT family of products, including ParentNoticesAfterSchool21, and Homeless Information Management System for Students (HIMSS).  

Here are a few facts about ESSER funding and how the funds are being distributed:

What is the CARES Act, the CRRSAA Act, the ARP Act, and ESSER funding?  

These three Acts are appropriations laws (sometimes called ‘Bills’) that that provide relief funding to address pandemic-related issues. Congress has passed three that provide significant funding for K-12 education. The first funding package, the CARES Act, provided $13.5 billion to K-12 in ESSER funds. The funding for K-12 education in the CRRSA Act included over $54 billion in ESSER II funds and the third funding bill, the ARP Act, included over $122 billion in ESSER III funds.

How much money is it? Is that a lot?   

Compared to the first Coronavirus COVID-19 relief funding (CARES Act - ESSER funds), CRRSA Act ESSER II, ARP Act ESSER III, and other grant packages, it is a lot. CARES Act funding was slightly less that the typical annual Title I, Part A funding. The CRRSA Act ESSER II funding was about 4x the CARES Act-ESSER funds and the ARP Act ESSER III funds was more than double the CRRSA Act ESSER II funds. For comparison, the total ESSER funding provided in these three bills is about 12x the annual Title I, Part A funding.

What is the catch?   

Restrictions on how districts can spend federal money, called "allowable use of funds," are typical. However, the ESSER funding is more flexible than other grant packages. For example, some federal funding has "required" activities - where you must spend the federal money. Both ESSER and ESSER II include no required activities. Instead they offer a list of 15 generally broad categories of allowable activities to support responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

ESSER III funds has one restriction not found in ESSER nor ESSER II, which is that 20% of the funds that local education agencies (LEAs) receive must be used “to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on the student subgroups described in section 1111(b)(2)(B)(xi)” of the ESEA.

All three bills include “Any activity authorized by” ESSA and other allowable uses including planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and afterschool programs. The complete list of allowable uses of these funds can be found in the “Uses of Funds” education sections of each bill (CARES Act page 285, CRRSA Act page 749, and ARP Act page 17).

How will districts receive the money?   

The money will be distributed to districts using the "Title I Formula" for the 2020-2021 school year. It is not Title I funding and does not need to follow Title I requirements. It is allowable to use ESSER funding in any of the allowable uses of funds listed in the bills (see links above). The Title I formula is a complicated, poverty-based formula for determining how to distribute monies to districts and was used because it is the most effective and well-known model for allocating funding to communities in need of support.

When will districts receive the money?  

Districts must submit an application for funding to their state education agency. The money will be distributed to districts when they have an approved application. Each pot of ESSER funding has a separate deadline for applications. Check with your state education agency for exact dates for application deadlines and funding distribution.

Where do I go to learn more about applications?   

Your State Department of Education or your district's grant management office. 

Title I money has been slow or non-existent for us in the past. How is this money different?  

This is not Title I money, and this money is substantially more extensive and more flexible than Title I funding. All three bills include “Any activity authorized by” ESSA, which applies to all ESSA programs. Other allowable uses including planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and afterschool programs. The complete list of allowable uses of these funds can be found in the “Uses of Funds” education sections of each bill (CARES Act page 285, CRRSA Act page 749, and ARP Act page 17). The most important thing is identifying who in your district manages the application for ESSER funds and how they are taking requests for support and budget in their application.

Technology plays a critical role in parent and family engagement, especially for those whose English is not proficient. Relations will need to be maintained, including informing families with language-friendly communication to help students succeed.

To learn more about how CARES Act, CRRSAA Act, and ARP Act funds can be used to support compliant parent and family engagement, schedule some time to speak with a member of our team. Or watch the on-demand webinar linked below: 

Learn How to Use Federal Funds  for Compliant Parent and Family Engagement

About The Author

Paige Kummer is the marketing specialist for TransACT Communications. Her previous experience includes working as the Deputy of Communication in the Texas House of Representatives during an active session as well as a Customer Success Manager for a fin-tech startup. She utilizes her knowledge of social media, software as a service (SaaS), and love of learning to grow TransACT’s social media footprint across all 12 brands serving both K-12 and post-secondary education institutions. Paige also works as an account manager for the ActPoint KPI, which supports district and state business leaders nationwide in their efforts to manage costs and drive resources back to the classroom.