Who’s getting the most ESSER funds and how are they spending it?

The third round of ESSER funds is being allocated to Texas school districts just as some schools still haven’t finished spending their allotment from the first round.  This third round totals over $17 billion.  These federal funds are also boosted by grants from the state to help offset COVID-19 costs incurred by school districts.

This is great news, but the hard part is deciding how to spend the money.  At least 20% of the ESSER funds must be spent (by law) on helping students catch up and cope with learning loss from the previous school year.  Updated technology and devices, more time in the classroom, salary for additional staff, and bolstered social services seem to be the top priorities among Texas’ largest school districts.

And it is these largest school districts that will be collecting the largest portions of the relief funds.  This includes four districts in the Houston area (Houston ISD alone will receive over a billion dollars); Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD; San Antonio ISD and Northside ISD; El Paso ISD and Ysleta ISD; Austin ISD; and IDEA Public Schools (the only charter in the top 15 recipients).  The regions across the state to receive over a billion dollars (aside from the Houston area) are the San Antonio area, the Rio Grande Valley, and two parts of the Metroplex (Richardson and Fort Worth).

Of course, allocations are determined by population density, and each district has the leeway to focus their funding according to what will best meet the needs of their individual community as they work towards pre-pandemic standards in the post-pandemic landscape.

Many districts are conducting surveys among staff, students, families, and the broader community to help select top priorities for spending.  Be on the lookout for these surveys in your area and your inbox.  Voice your ideas about what investments will best help students in the coming school year and beyond as we grapple with the aftermath of school closures and remote learning due to COVID-19.

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