Today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the release of $11.2 billion in additional funding for Texas schools from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER or ESSER III) Fund. This federal funding was passed in March 2021 under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021.
Who Is Eligible for This Funding?
K-12 public and charter schools are eligible for the funding which is designed to be used for resources purchased between March 13, 2020 and September 20, 2023. The estimated allotment is a district’s ESSER I entitlement multiplied by 10 (subject to change depending on final allotments).
What Can the Funding Be Spent On?
ESSER III focuses on school districts reopening and operating safely, as well as on addressing the possible impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students. In addition, a district must use, at a minimum, 20 percent of the funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions. Districts must ensure that the interventions respond to the students’ social, emotional, and academic needs.
With that in mind, the following services are allowable under the federal guidelines (source):
Activities Related to Health and Safety
- The development and implementation of strategies and public health protocols (in line with guidance from the CDC to the greatest extent possible) to reopen and operate schools to effectively maintain the health of students and staff
- Efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19
- Training and professional development on sanitizing and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
- Supplies to sanitize and clean the district’s facilities
- Improving and/or repairing the district’s facilities to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards
- Improvements in indoor air quality
- Procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of the district, including developing and implementing those procedures
Activities Related to Health, Safety, and Wellbeing of Students
- Planning and/or implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students and providing technology for online learning
- Mental health services and supports, including implementation of evidence-based full-service community schools and the hiring of counselors
Activities Related to Teaching and Learning
- Educational technology for students that aid in interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment
- Addressing the needs of children from low-income families, children that have disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless students, and children that are in foster care
- Summer learning and supplemental after-school programs, including planning and the implementation of those programs
- Activities that address learning loss
- Activities allowed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins CTE)
- Any other activities that are necessary to maintain operation and services provided by the district, including continuing to employ existing staff or hiring new staff
What Should Districts Do?
TEA provided this information about ESSER III and what districts will need to do. According to the agency, “Effective today, districts and open-enrollment charter schools (school systems) in Texas may apply to receive their allocation of the $11.2 billion appropriated to the State of Texas for public education purposes under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) Fund. Funds are being provided, supplemental to all other funding sources to school systems, and will not be supplanted at the state level. School systems should use these new funds to respond to the pandemic and to address student learning loss as a result of COVID-19. The eGrants electronic grant application will be available on the TEA Grant Opportunities web page on Thursday, April 29, 2021.” They also provided this chart showing how much each district can expect to receive. Schools should begin to consider the needs of their students and how best to help them recover from any setbacks during the pandemic.