Understanding ESSER and ARP

On March 11, 2021, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was signed into law. Among the assistance measures: $122 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER).

Make no mistake: This is the largest-ever one-time federal investment in education—an unparalleled opportunity to not only reopen, but also to reimagine our schools. Together, our school communities can realize the dream of safe, deep, and equitable learning for all students.

Ideas for District Leaders
What Is ESSER & ARP?
How Can Funds Be Used?
Make the Most of ESSER: Ideas & Insights

Districts like yours will receive substantial ESSER funding to not only reopen, but also to reimagine your schools.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to:

  • Provide safe, deep, and personalized learning to all students
  • Accelerate learning with better, innovative practices that re-engages kids: relationship-building, supports for social-emotional learning, advisory programs, etc.
  • Address learning and its supports with summer academies, tutoring, extended days, etc.
  • Develop more equitable community engagement practices
  • Improve buildings, increase access to technology, and diversify the educator workforce

These examples are just the beginning. Together, we can reimagine learning and build more equitable systems of education that support the mental and physical well-being of all students.

Others Way to Make the Most of ESSER

ESSER funds can also be used to participate in:


We invite individual educators or teams of educators to join us for one (or more!) of our 2- and 3-day summer institutes. Topics range from the Elements of Effective Instruction and professional learning groups to advisory systems and anti-racism.

Designing and implementing an equitable system of education requires context-based and comprehensive solutions that change our beliefs, our culture, and our actions. Over the past 12 years, we've helped hundreds of schools and districts across the country engage in these improvement efforts.

What Is ESSER & ARP?

ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which was granted $122 billion as part of the recently-passed American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act.

From U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s letter to Chief State School Officers announcing the grant award:

“ARP ESSER funds will enable [state education agencies] to . . . address the many impacts of COVID-19 on students, including from interrupted instruction; implement strategies to meet students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs; offer crucial evidence-based summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs; support early childhood education; invest in staff capacity; and avoid devastating layoffs at this critical moment, ensuring that all students have access to teachers, counselors, and other school personnel to support their needs. It is particularly important that ARP ESSER funding will enable States and school districts, as well as schools, to support students who have been most severely impacted by the pandemic and are likely to have suffered the most because of longstanding inequities in our communities and schools.”

How Can ESSER Funds Be Used?

What’s so exciting about the $122 billion investment in education—in addition to the sheer magnitude of the number—is the flexibility with which ESSER funds can be spent. Every school and community has different needs; ESSER funds can likely meet them.

Funds can be used on any education expense allowed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, or the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.

Additionally, states and districts can utilize ESSER funds to support a wide range of other school improvement efforts. For a full list, please read the U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet.

Specific provisions (and related GSP tools and resources) include:

Need a partner in this most important work?

Our goal is to help you understand how best to use your ESSER funds to improve learning for all of your students. Whether or not you work with us, the resources above are available in full for free. Just know we're here any time you need us.

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