Public schools around the nation are often working with limited budgets. Finding the funds to purchase highly beneficial special education software can be challenging. However, additional funding is available – but how do you access it and implement it in a meaningful way to make true change and create positive outcomes with your special education student population?
What is ESSER Funding
In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan was signed into law, which provided emergency funding for public education. This included the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. Under ESSER, the U.S. Department of Education awarded grants to State educational agencies to provide local educational agencies with emergency relief funds to address the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the United States.
ESSER Allowable Uses
The purpose of ESSER funds is to support state educational agencies (SEAs) in providing necessary resources to address the needs of their schools, thus lessening the impact of the pandemic.
Some of the allowable uses of ESSER funds include
- Purchasing educational technology. This may include hardware, software, and connectivity to support educational interactions between students and educators. This includes assistive technology or adaptive equipment for students with disabilities who are particularly affected by the impact the pandemic has had on their educational needs.
- Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities.
- Providing mental health services and supports.
- Administering and using assessments to accurately assess students’ academic progress and implementing evidence-based activities to meet each student’s unique needs.
It is important to note that products purchased and strategies implemented using ESSER funds must be evidence-based.
What grade levels can use ESSER funding?
ESSER funds can be used for grades K-12.
How much money did each state receive in ESSER funding?
You can see highlights for each state’s approved plan, including how much funds each state received here.
Another COVID-19-related funding source is the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. This fund was established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The GEER fund is designed to provide emergency support to states and educational institutions to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education. The fund provides states with significant flexibility to support education at all levels, including early childhood education, K-12 schools, and higher education.
GEER Allowable Uses
Similar to ESSER funds, states can use the GEER fund to support a wide range of activities, such as purchasing technology, supporting distance learning, providing mental health services, and addressing learning loss due to school closures. Implementing rigorous curricula and hiring additional counselors, nurses, and school psychologists are also allowable uses. Ensuring that schools have equitable access to funding to begin to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students and educators is the primary focus of these funds.
What grade levels can use GEER funds?
GEER funds may be used for childcare, pre-K-12 education, adult education, and higher education support.
How much money did each state receive in GEER funds?
Funding varies based on population size in each state. You can find a list of how much each state received in GEER funds here.
Planning for Success with Special Education Software
Seeking funding can be intimidating. However, funds are available and can be used to support the underserved communities including special education students. Using these funds to implement new software can be beneficial, but may feel like a daunting task at first.
Identify Your Goals
When it comes to special education software, there are many potential uses and benefits. Determine with your internal team what your students would most benefit from in terms of software. Consider whether you’re in need of software that simplifies and centralizes IEPs, goals, and data collection. Or perhaps you’re seeking a solution to better assess your students' individualized needs. Whatever your school’s individual needs are, seek out software that is based on evidence-based practices to accelerate your students' learning paths.
Timing is important to ensure all teams are onboarded and have thorough training on how to use the software. Purchasing software now or toward the end of the current school year is a perfect time. Your team can take time over the summer to get aligned with the new technology and be ready to go for the 2023-2024 school year.
Include key stakeholders in the implementation process. This includes educators, administrators, parents, and students. A major benefit of digital platforms is that they allow for increased collaboration and transparency across all teams, including parents and caregivers.
Visualize and Track Student Progress
When implementing an innovative approach to accelerating learning and mitigating the effects of lost instructional time, closely monitoring student progress is vital. Pay attention to gaps in your student’s academic, behavioral, and social-emotional functioning and individualize teaching strategies to address them. Software solutions make it simple to visualize and track your student's progress.
Go Digital with CentralReach
Support your staff, students, and families with innovative and adaptive digital technology. Learn how to improve outcomes for students with Autism and IDD using CentralReach's suite of special education software. Learn more about how CentralReach’s suite of educational solutions can help your team improve outcomes today.