Policy & Funding

Teacher Hiring and Pay, Summer Learning and HVAC Top Uses for ESSER III Funds

An analysis by Future-Ed found that most K-12 districts are spending at least some portion of their federal relief funding in a few categories: hiring or paying raises or bonuses to teachers and counselors; running summer learning programs; and upgrades tied to heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

The project examined the planned allocations for about a third of the $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funds made available under the American Rescue Plan. Future-Ed worked with Burbio, a data service known for its tracking of school openings. Burbio examined publicly available details of spending plans developed by 2,100 districts and charter school organizations, representing the 10% of districts and schools attended by some 40% of all public-school students in the United States. The planned expenditures were sorted into more than 100 categories.

Teacher Hiring and Pay, Summer Learning and HVAC Top Uses for ESSER III Funds

While technology expenditures may not show up on a majority of K-12 spending plans for federal relief funds, improvements in student device access and internet connectivity are still drawing the attention of a number of school districts. Source: FutureEd

As the reporting explained, the districts and charters have "wide latitude" in using the ESSER III funds, as long as the spending is focused on "reopening schools safely and helping students recover from the pandemic." The act requires that states monitor their local spending.

In the category of staffing, teachers and counselors topped the list, with 1,164 district plans citing planned spending in that category. That was followed by "professional development, referenced in 883 spending plans.

Academic recovery included summer learning, mentioned in 1,125 plans, instructional materials (784) and afterschool or extended day (733).

Top contenders in the category of climate systems were HVAC, designated in 1,090 plans, and personal protective equipment (736).

Technology also continues to draw investment. Planned spending on tech included:

  • Software and instructional software, listed in 826 plans;

  • Student mobile devices (710);

  • Technology to support learning from anywhere (605);

  • Infrastructure and hardware (527);

  • Connectivity (502);

  • Distance learning and online school (371); and

  • Student information systems (128).

While cybersecurity wasn't broken out as a separate category in the analysis that was made publicly available, some notable investments are headed that way. The report noted that Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for instance, was expected to spend some $30 million on cybersecurity-related expenses, after a year in which the Florida district has suffered "more than a dozen distributed denial of service attacks" (many of which were instigated by a high schooler attending school in the district).

The report made sure to reference some of the less obvious ways districts hoped to allocate federal largesse, such as the Texas district that intends to spend $171,000 on band instruments and the Wisconsin district that hopes to buy a 3D cadaver table for a high school anatomy course. And, Future-Ed pointed out, 27 local education agencies - just over 1% -- proposed spending a portion of their relief funds on athletics.

The detailed rundown on K-12 spending trends is openly available on the Future-Ed website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.