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3 Keys to Using Your Education Stimulus Funding for Stronger Schools

Jennifer Gregory
  • Jun 29, 2021
  • 5 minutes

VDU notes on stimulus

Many schools are currently receiving additional stimulus funding with American Rescue Plan. Administrators and facility managers need to make sure that they follow the specific requirements and use the dollars wisely to get the best outcomes for their students. By strategically using these funds, you can make a difference in the life of your school and students for years to come. 

At our recent conference, Virtual Dude University, Susan Gentz, who is the founder of BSG Strategies, and also a partner at K20Connect, shared about how to best bundle, maximize and stretch these federal dollars. 

Here are the three keys to using stimulus funds that Gentz shared during her presentation:

1. Plan

Because schools have numerous stimulus funding sources with different use requirements, it’s essential to understand the requirements and then carefully plan how to make the best use within the rules. 

Here are key restrictions to understand with the three main funding types:

  • With the American Rescue Plan, the biggest requirement is that 20% must be used to address learning loss. Additionally, law states that you cannot use federal dollars to replace state dollars, which means you must Supplement not Supplant your funding. For funds to qualify under this 20% rule, you must prove that it is an evidence-based intervention. For example, you can have a study with data showing that, if you use a certain approach, it will increase student achievement by a specific amount.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act Funds must be used with 5% addressing learning loss and 1% to evidence-based after-school care. States can spend up to .5% of their funds on administrative costs, and the remaining funds can be used on any of the allowable programs or purchases. 
  • The Local Education Agency (LEA) requirements require that 20% be used for evidence-based intervention that makes up for learning loss. Schools then have the freedom to spend the remaining 80% based on local needs and priorities. 

To prove evidence-based intervention for any portion of the funds with this requirement, you can do it one of the following ways:

  • Strong evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study 
  • Moderate evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study
  • Promising evidence from at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection 
  • Demonstrate a rationale based on high quality research findings or positive evaluation that such activity, strategy or intervention is likely to improve student outcomes or other relevant outcomes. This also includes ongoing efforts to examine the effects of such activity, strategy or intervention. 

2. Strategize

Because of the large amounts of stimulus funds and other funding streams, schools can strategize by bundling multiple streams together to stretch the funding further.

One way that schools are managing the different spending deadline requirements is through getting extended contracts with vendors and then bundling sources.

Committing to new resources for extended periods of time also reduces fatigue for both students and teachers from trying too many new things at the same time. 

Along with the ESER and GEER funds, there are additional federal stimulus funds that can be bundled for K-12 education. A lot of states are spending their Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) on K-12 education and are bundling these funds together. 

If your school or district does not currently have access to these funds, research how your state is using CRF funds and determine if any money has not been distributed that is available to your school. 

Here are some resources to help with your research:

3. Be Bold

By looking outside usual purchases and programs, schools can use this opportunity to change their student experience and their futures. Many schools are using funds to purchase education technology, such as hardware, software, adaptive equipment, connectivity or assistive technology. Because the definition of professional development has been waived, schools have more learning opportunities that they can offer teachers online with the funding. 

See more uses for your stimulus dollars in this infographic.

Other uses include repairing facilities to reduce spread of COVID-19, mental health services, implementing public health protocols, coordinating with public health departments, summer learning programs and after-school programs. Funds can also be used to conduct activities that address the needs of students from low-income families, children with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness and youth in foster care.

In addition to new programs and equipment, think about different ways to measure how students are doing. In addition to learning gaps and progress, schools can use funding to measure how students are learning and what’s working. By looking for tools with dashboards, you can show more of the whole picture of the student. 

You students and teachers have gone through a very challenging year – to say the least. By strategically using these funds in unique ways while following the regulations, you can work to make up for the learning losses from this past year and help them recover from emotional challenges encountered during the pandemic. 

Explore more leadership and other tips by staying up to date on plans for Dude University 2022.

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