The Path Forward with Stimulus Funding for Education

Posted in: Education , Managed Services , UC&C

By Bill Brichta on May 19, 2021

Schools have been forced to rapidly adapt to a wave of unexpected learning obstacles since the beginning of the pandemic. From closures and implementing remote learning to testing and social distancing on campus, the past year and change looked nothing like what higher education or K-12 institutions had in their 2020-2021 academic plans.

Decreased enrollment, deep budget cuts, revenue loss and unexpected strain on administrations have all contributed to an undeniable impact. Fortunately, to-date, Congress has passed a total of three stimulus bills that injected nearly $279 billion for education through the Education Stabilization Fund.

Now, schools are tasked with navigating not only how to access these stimulus funds, but also plan budgets and allocate COVID relief funding effectively and within allowable use guidelines.

The Status of COVID Relief Funding for Education

With that said, let’s get up to date on the status of the Education Stabilization Fund, or the total relief aid passed through Congress so far, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed on March 27, 2020, and dispersed:

  • $13.5 billion to the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief (ESSER) Fund
  • $14.25 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA) was passed on Dec. 27, 2020. It supplemented the Education Stabilization Fund with:

  • $54.3 billion to the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief (ESSER) Fund
  • $2.75 billion is reserved for relief for private schools
  • $22.7 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund

Most recently, the American Rescue Plan Act made its way through Congress on March 11, 2021 and provided a third round of relief aid to the Education Stabilization Fund:

  • $122.7 billion to the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief (ESSER) Fund
  • $2.75 billion is reserved for relief for private schools
  • $40 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund

With the addition of new education funding made available to schools through the American Rescue Plan (which is more than both the CARES and CRRSA combined), administrations now have the resources and flexibility for a broad range of educational initiatives. Particularly, as schools prepare to open their doors to more students and staff, implementing hybrid learning technology and designing more deeply engaging learning environments are top priorities for a variety of stakeholders, administrators and council members.

Designing the Classroom of the Future

The fact of the matter is that—through budgeting appropriately—you can build upon the technology that has been established through previous rounds of stimulus funding in response to student learning loss during the pandemic. The consensus between both K-12 schools and institutions of higher education is that hybrid learning offerings will need to be expanded and formalized.

And in actuality, the red tape isn’t quite as thick as some administrations may assume. According to the U.S. Department of Education, here are just some of the justifications for schools to use stimulus funding as it relates to redesigning classroom technology and learning environments with a future-proofing mindset:

  • Purchasing education technology to support remote or hybrid instruction, including hardware, software and connectivity.
  • Planning and implementing summer or after-school programming to help mitigate learning loss.
  • Implementing evidence-based activities to improve accessibility and meet the comprehensive needs of students.
  • Providing information and assistance to parents and families so that they can effectively support students, including in a virtual learning or hybrid environment.
  • Tracking attendance and improving student engagement in remote learning and/or hybrid classrooms.
  • Supporting colleges, universities, school districts and private institutions in all efforts to improve preparedness and plan for school closures in the future.

The Time is Now

Last year was like a pickup basketball game: unplanned, unorganized, and a bit chaotic. But, that’s not to say it wasn’t worth the effort and experience. The next generation of classrooms will undoubtedly involve remote participants and collaboration via video conferencing. Still, it’s about more than just classrooms; it’s about providing students and instructors the flexibility and capabilities to learn in ways that traditional teaching put limits on.

Whether you have a clear idea for classroom technology planning or need somewhere to start, reach out for a consultation and partner with us to discover technology solutions tailored to your specific learning needs.

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