Rebuilding Trust Through ESSER III Funding

The pandemic has made many things about education infinitely more difficult from supporting student success and retaining high-quality staff, to providing mental health support and connecting with stakeholders. Superintendents can be challenged to find the funding to address these key needs even on a good day. However, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) provides for 15 allowabilities – that’s 15 different ways you can support students, staff and families through the use of these specially designated pandemic-related funds.

Let’s focus on four: abilities 6, 9, 12 and 15.

Allowability 6 – Training and professional development for staff of the local educational agency on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases

Allowability 9 – Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and children with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.

Allowability 12 – Addressing learning loss among students, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care, of the local educational agency, including by— (C) Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment, 

Allowability 15 – Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency

District leaders will find there is great flexibility in how the money can be used within local districts. Savvy leaders understand that if you can’t recover trust, learning will be infinitely more difficult to recover.

Here are five ways to support your district’s stakeholder engagement efforts:

  • Purchase of software to help schools communicate directly with families (Allowability 9) e.g.: website maintenance fees, electronic newsletter subscriptions, automated messaging tools
  • Purchase of communication pieces to educate families on opportunities (Allowability 12) e.g.: printed pieces informing parents and caregivers of after-school and summer learning opportunities
  • Translation and reproduction of communication pieces (Allowability 6 and 12)
  • Automated surveys or other tools to obtain feedback from stakeholders to improve culture (Allowability 15) e.g.: any surveying or opinion gathering tools
  • Professional development on effective communication strategies (Allowability 15) e.g.: participating in AASA, The Superintendent’s Association’s National Conference on Education, participating in the National School Public Relations Association’s, (NSPRA) annual seminar, or event seeking custom professional development to meet your stakeholder engagement challenges.

While a complex set of rules govern how the money can be spent, the allowabilities provide clear avenues to support rebuilding trust which may have become eroded during the course of the pandemic for some districts. Other district leaders nationwide have already found this to be true and received the green light for these kinds of expenses.

Will you be next? 

As a reminder, The ESSER III Fund Application will close on December 17, 2021. LEAs must apply for their allocation of ESSER III funds by submitting program assurances prior to this date, according to the California Department of Education.

Contact Nichols Strategies today to develop your custom plan to meet your district’s stakeholder engagement needs.