Now’s the Time to Investigate ESSER Funds for Your School Technology Projects

By Mike Glowinski

Have a school technology project in the pipeline—or dreaming of one in the future? You’ll want to hear this news. It could impact how you pay for new technology!

Beginning back in 2020, U.S. Congress passed a series of three stimulus bills to provide K-12 schools with nearly $190.5 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds:

  • ESSER I funds provided $13.5 billion through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed on March 27, 2020
  • ESSER II funds provided $53.4 billion through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021 passed on Dec. 27, 2020
  • ESSER III funds provided $122.7 billion through the American Rescue Plan Act passed on March 11, 2021

The funds were first made available to state education agencies (SEAs). In turn, SEAs allocated at least 90% of the funds as subgrants to local education agencies (LEAs), including school districts and charter schools.

Depending on which funds are applied for, there are certain usage requirements that must be followed (investments to address learning loss, hire staff, or modify spaces and update technology, for example). But all ESSER funds have one common goal: to keep schools safe, clean, and functional.

As of late January 2022, plans from all 50 U.S. SEAs have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education, and funds are now being disbursed to the states. But there’s one catch: This money is only available until Sept. 30, 2023. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever. If you don’t claim these funds, then other schools will.

In Wisconsin, for instance, Milwaukee Public Schools and Baraboo School District are claiming ESSER funds for upcoming technology projects. In Iowa, the Iowa City Community School District and Cedar Rapids Community School District are claiming ESSER funds as well.

Although we can’t tell you how to claim ESSER funds, or exactly what to do with them once you have them, there are many options to consider. If your school wants to invest in new technology—and can make a case for how the technology would support safe and healthy learning—then you could consider projects that:

  • Support remote education and connectivity
  • Create safe, touchless environments
  • Manage building access and pedestrian flow
  • Automate occupancy tracking
  • Improve emergency communications
  • Enable social distancing
  • Support physical, mental, and emotional health
  • Accelerate learning

A wide variety of technologies and systems can be used to achieve these goals—whether it’s an AV solution to create smart conference rooms, video walls to broadcast updates about air quality and occupancy levels, or access control, video surveillance, and mass communication systems to protect staff and students.

These funds bring many opportunities along with lots of responsibility. In the rush to claim and spend the funds, it can be easy to fall into the trap of buying a system or technology without understanding what you can do with it—or whether your school will benefit from it.

Take time to find out what you qualify for, weigh your technology options, understand life safety codes, and make sure the technology you deploy will improve your education environment. Have questions? CEC’s technology experts can help you pinpoint the technologies that will help you meet your goals.

Mike Glowinski is CEC’s executive director of sales for state, local, and education government agencies. With PASS K-12 and ALICE certifications, he’s a trusted resource for helping schools improve security and communications while staying within budget.


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