How Should We Be Thinking About Funding in 2022?
This is the fifth post in Lexia's ESSER funding series. Written by Bri Martin, Lexia Learning Education Department Relations Manager, it focuses on sustainability and multiyear partnerships.
At Lexia®, I’ve been focused on helping our organization engage with state education agency (SEA) leaders as part of our national strategy to expand our impact for literacy. Lexia could not have set out on this journey at a more pivotal time given the impact of interrupted learning on literacy outcomes as well as the opportunities created through an unprecedented infusion of federal relief aid to education.
In June, SEAs submitted their American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) plans to the federal education department, and many projected thousands of students entering first grade this 2020-2021 school year with no formal kindergarten while other data pointed to steep declines in third-grade reading assessment outcomes highlighting the significance of literacy loss. These are issues that call for both immediate intervention as well as infrastructure to sustain progress in the long term.
My career has taken me from the classroom through state education department leadership and I have learned that our ability to effectively leverage funding resources greatly impacts the equity, opportunity, and outcomes that define pre-K–12 educational access. As we navigate this current funding environment, educational leaders must think intentionally about the impact they want to create and what will be required to sustain success.
If you told me, or any educator, in 2019 that Congress would allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in additional aid to schools, we would have bet against it. Though education funding has increased year-over-year, that growth has tended to fall in the $20- to $30-billion-dollar range and has not enabled transformational impact in the same way as this wave of relief funding.
Across three major pieces of legislation, states have received federal relief aid in the hundreds of billions:
|CARES Act(March 2020)||COVID Relief Package(December 2020)||American Rescue Plan(March 2021)|
|Education Total||$30.7 billion||$82 billion||$168 billion|
||$54 billion||$122 billion|
||$22 billion||$40 billion|
|Governors Fund (GEER/EANS)||$3 billion||$4 billion||$2.7 billion|
The funding tide is still coming in and states will have access to relief funding through 2024. While it remains unclear whether these proposed amounts will make the final version, the Build Back Better bill approved by the House and currently under consideration in the Senate includes:
- $82 billion for improving school facilities
- $80 billion for workforce development programs, including apprenticeships
- $297 million for developing personnel to support students with disabilities
- $198 million to support school principals
- $198 million to develop and support high-quality teacher residency programs
- $197 million to create "grow your own programs" to address shortages of teachers in critical areas and increase diversity
The flurry of stimulus funding can be used broadly to address learning loss but we have to remember this inflow of dollars won’t last forever.
As school and district leaders look ahead and contemplate the lasting effects of the pandemic and how they will address them, they should also consider the budget mechanisms that drive their resource-allocation decisions across streams of funding as an approach to long-term sustainability.
Considerations for Sustaining ESSER Impact
Federal relief aid has made possible investments in new curriculum, technology, professional learning, and other areas of intervention that educational leaders will want to continue into the future. To start down that path of sustainability, educators may want to answer these three questions:
Question: How might we be proactive about ensuring ESSER investments are sustained beyond the final period of availability?
This will require cross-functional collaboration across leadership and grants to craft a funding strategy that sustains larger ESSER investments. SEAs should consider what guidance and tools are available to district leaders that will support essential budgeting and braiding of funds. This will directly impact the way ESSER allocations are maximized. District leaders may also consider how they will target resources to ensure continued support to their most vulnerable student populations is prioritized.
Data and evidence
Question: How are we leveraging ESSER funding to understand what works best for students?
As funding decisions for ESSER dollars are made, educators should consider the conditions that exist to support their understanding of efficacy and to expand access to evidence-based interventions. SEA and local education agency (LEA) leaders should consider leveraging relief funding to evaluate the impact of ESSER investments and scale resources that are most productive.
In five years, when it’s time for the next round of funding, this will ensure you have data to identify which evidence-based interventions worked for your students in your localized context.
Question: How can we create or strengthen the infrastructure needed to support critical learning needs now and into the future?
ESSER funding may be used broadly to support the acceleration of learning and other recovery priorities such as social-and-emotional wellness. It can also be used to build administrative capacity, support the educator workforce, and establish new partnerships.
Educators should start by using data to accurately identify critical learning needs and then consider the ways their ESSER investments provide structural advantages that help sustain outcomes. For example, how might a new literacy curriculum also support family engagement requirements or teacher professional learning support the implementation of dyslexia legislation. Intentionally seeking partnerships that offer support more comprehensively should be a key part of your sustainability strategy.
Partner With Lexia to Accelerate Learning
At Lexia, we are all for literacy. We believe in a world where literacy is a reality for everyone and we are on a mission to create opportunity for every student through the power of literacy education. A partnership with Lexia Learning is supported by renowned literacy experts who help us raise the standard for content quality and pioneer advanced learning technologies to address literacy’s biggest issues.
We share in your commitment to equity by ensuring our programs are developed with strong evidence and research. This past year, a study of nearly 13,000 re-K–5 students in three states who used Lexia® Core5® Reading to meet their literacy needs found that despite the volatility of the school year, more than 80% of students did not have learning loss and more than 40% exceeded their MAP Growth targets. Lexia® PowerUp Literacy® for grades 6–12, based on the same evidence and research, also supports equity by helping students make multiple years of growth in a single academic year.
Our capacity to support educators in this current environment includes professional learning for teachers which many SEAs have advanced as a strategic recovery initiative to address early literacy learning loss. We are also proud to offer our newest program, Lexia® English, developed to support the literacy and language needs of English Learners.
For the first time in a long time, we have the opportunity to redefine what education means for young people. We have an opportunity to proactively address opportunity gaps that are often precipitated by low-literacy levels. Partnering with Lexia Learning is an example of the kind of ESSER investment that enables bold innovations and improved student outcomes.