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March 16, 2021  |  Lynn Schear

Yes, K-12 schools are spending relief funds.

With President Biden signing a new stimulus package that includes $123 billion for K-12 schools, education decision-makers are specifically tasked with finding solutions to address learning loss and public plans to return safely to in-person classes.

Meanwhile, a Department of Education portal designed to track allocation and use of coronavirus relief funds is answering some questions about 2021 education spending – and raising more.

The site provides data on three areas:

  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER)
  • Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER)
  • GEER, or Governor's Emergency Education Relief

A quick glance at several states seems to indicate that billions of funds intended for K-12 remain unspent. More money has been spent than the portal shows, however. The data is only updated through Nov. 30 of last year, and because districts spend on a reimbursement basis, there’s an added layer of paperwork creating an additional delay between buying and reporting

The Department of Education said through a spokesman, "The portal will be updated frequently. In January of 2021, the Department of Ed updated the ESF portal to include all award and expenditure information reported to usaspending.gov by the Department of Ed for its ESF prime grantees through Nov. 30, 2020. The Department of Ed anticipates posting a subsequent expenditure update for its ESF prime grantees in the coming weeks."

Districts have until September 2022 to spend their share of CARES Act funds approved in 2020, and until September 2023 to spend the additional funds approved this year.

Search the portal at covid-relief-data.ed.gov, or check out this report that lets you search for and scroll through state allocations – and details of what they’re spending on. Standout trends include:

  • E-learning
  • Facility upgrades
  • PPE and COVID-19 cleaning
  • Transportation
  • Professional development for teachers

MCH helps you make sense of funding amounts and contacts for schools nationwide. Reach out to find out more about leveraging K-12 data with MCH.

More Insight From MCH

  • Closing gaps and bridging divides: Read our article on how K-12 leaders are already aligned with new federal priorities.
  • Check out our interview with a funding expert on what schools will be spending money on in the next few years, from EdTech to HVAC.
  • Find out how school districts are supporting teachers during the pandemic.

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