Approximately $2 billion in federal education funds remains
through: Michael P Norton, State House Intelligence Service
(SHNS) — Only about a third of the $2.9 billion in education funding approved by the federal government since the COVID-19 hit has been spent, leaving “a lot of money on the table,” according to a senior state education official “.
During a Tuesday morning briefing by the EdImpact Research Consortium, Matt Deninger, chief strategy and resource officer at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said that Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding has been approved in three tranches: approximately $200 million Dollars at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, US$739 million in December 2020 and another US$1.66 billion in April 2021.
“They have a lot of money here … in quick succession,” said Deninger, who tried to put the funding into context by noting that the state’s annual Title 1 education stipend totals about $230 million. Deninger said the funds have gone to all 400 school districts, with aid specifically targeted to helping economically disadvantaged students. While the initial grant authorization was nearly fully utilized, Deninger said about 60 percent of the second tranche was spent and only about 17 percent of the third and largest tranche. Dealing with incomplete learning is the largest single category of ESSER spending, Deninger said, and other spending has included mental health, summer and after-school programs, indoor air quality, the COVID response, education specialists and technology needs. Everett School Superintendent Priya Tahiliani said the flexibility of the funding has allowed the school to respond to changing conditions. ESSER funds have been used for robotics programming, social/emotional curriculum, adult education, library overhauls, tutoring and hands-free hand dryers, she said. “The ESSER Dollars have been really instrumental in our recovery,” Tahiliani said.