Overview of Elementary and Secondary School Relief Funding

Robert-Wayne Harris
Chief Learning Officer (CLO)
News on April 09 2021

School Relief Funding

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, along Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021 provided approximately $67.8 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding and supplemental ESSER funding (ESSER II) to elementary and secondary education.

Combine that with the recent $122.7 billion allocation for education in the American Rescue Plan Act (ESSER III) passed on March 11, 2021, and America’s public schools could receive well over $190.5 billion in funding with the following purpose: to stabilize schools, to support the safe reopening of schools for in-person learning, to provide support for students in closing equity gaps, and to address social, mental, and emotional health concerns.

How can the funding be used?

In addition to the above, the Federal funding allocations can also be used by schools and districts to:

  • Address learning loss, especially among disadvantaged students
  • Provide student support tools including educational technology
  • Purchase the hardware and software needed to implement remote and hybrid learning
  • Support summer learning and after-school programs
  • Upgrade school facilities to reduce the spread of COVID, especially ventilation systems to improve air quality
  • Offer training and professional development on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
  • Continue employment of existing staff

To learn more about this topic, you can visit the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund Tracker.

How is the funding allocated?

While broad discretion and flexibility has been given to State Education Agencies (SEAs), Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and school districts on how to disseminate and utilize these new funding streams, the distribution of these funds will be tied to the federal Title I formula for funding schools and districts with concentrated poverty as determined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

How are private (non-public) schools funded?

Initially, the Education Stabilization Fund was designed for public schools with no funding allocated explicitly for private or non-public schools. However, there are ways that non-public schools can benefit from the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Funding. Recently, the U.S. DoE issued a regulation that outlines how LEAs must calculate the funds available for providing equitable services to students and teachers in private schools.

Under the U.S. DoE Regulation, “if an LEA chooses to use CARES Act funding for students in all its public schools, it still must calculate the funds for equitable services based on all students enrolled in private schools in the district’s attendance area. However, if an LEA chooses to use CARES Act funding for students only in its Title I schools, then the district must calculate the funds for equitable services based only on the total number of low-income students in Title I and participating private schools. This focus on Title I schools and low-income students is how equitable services are provided under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

In addition to the above, private and charter schools have access to other funding that is not available to public school districts. The American Rescue Plan Act (ESSER III) included $2.75 billion for private schools, with distribution not contingent upon school poverty rates. According to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, “this fund, without taking any money away from public schools, will enable private schools, like yeshivas and more, to receive assistance and services that will cover COVID-related expenses they incur as they deliver quality education for their students.”

Are the other American Rescue Plan funding streams?

The CARES Act also included an additional $100 million in grants under Project SERV, which is dedicated to helping school districts and post-secondary institutions recover from “a violent or traumatic event that disrupts learning.” This funding can support initiatives such as distance learning, mental health counseling, and the disinfecting of schools.

For more information on K-12 educational funding visit  Teq’s funding opportunities page.


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