What Will Be the Impact of the ESSER Funds Ending?

The $13.2 billion ESSER Fund from the CARES Act, aiding schools with pandemic recovery, will expire in September, causing concerns over layoffs, discontinuation of services, and unmet mental health needs for students.
school kids in urban setting

As part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress established and appropriated a total of $13.2 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Unfortunately, this funding will run out in September of this year.

Schools have used their ESSER funds for a variety of expenses such as professional development for teachers and staff, technology needs, expanded learning opportunities, mental health support, tutoring services, and more. One of the main reasons these funds were allocated was because of the serious loss of learning that occurred to elementary, middle school and high school students nationally. Most of the studies showed that the hardest hit schools and students were in the lower socio-economic populations. Schools with a large number of students in this category are typically not as well funded so these funds were essential.

The ESSER funding was a great relief to so many schools, students and staff. The impact of COVID was devastating to our students and the appropriation of these funds was an essential part of their ability to recover. The schools that benefited the most were the ones that were already struggling with much needed relief for more teachers and mental health services. 

The problem is that many of our schools who have depended on these funds are now in a position where they have to plan next year without them. For some schools, that means teachers will be laid off, special services will be discontinued and the important mental health needs in students will not be met.

Lakeside has been asked to serve some districts for the past 3 years with funds that were made available by ESSER funding. Those services will be discontinued unless districts are able to find alternative funding. Some schools have the capacity to find those funds, and some are unable to keep their regular educational and mandated services in their current budget so extra programs will have to be cut.

The students that we are working with continue to be in crisis as they are experiencing depression, anxiety, drug use and even suicidal tendencies. I fear that they will fall in the gap of drop-out or failure in school. This could lead to an unproductive or unsuccessful life if they do not have a caring professional to listen to them, provide guidance and healing for all that they are facing from many sources of child and teenage adversity.

I am hopeful that our legislators federally, state-wide and locally will be perceptive and active to continue this necessary funding so that our schools will be able to help their students through the issues that could derail their education and life pursuits. The ESSER funding was so helpful to students, teachers and parents. In the absence of that funding, I fear many students who have had reliable support will be left without it and fall into an emotional, relational or behavioral

crisis that could have been avoided with the proper support and guidance. The funding may end but it appears that the needs are continuing to be glaringly apparent. We need to ask our legislators to consider these needs as we move into the 2024-25 school year.

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