Ready to Dream Big and Spend Your ESSER Funds?

by carolinastaff

Questions to Ask about Spending Your Federal Money

This may be a once in a career opportunity to refurbish lab stations, add new electives, update technology, and build your dream science classroom layout.

The influx of COVID-19 relief funds is giving K—12 schools opportunities to be safer, more inclusive, more responsive to student needs, and technologically up to date. Federal education funding is now at an all-time high, so now is the time to dream big and fund your dream project. Below is some basic information about the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) guidelines and links to primary sources from the federal government and the U.S. Department of Education.

K—12 Schools Emergency Relief Funding: The Federal Legislation

Since March 2020, federal legislatures have passed three COVID-19 stimulus bills that directly impact K—12 education. The $190 billion slated for K—12 emergency relief, managed by the U.S. Department of Education, resides in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSERFund.

Important Update on ESSER Funding for STEM from US DoEd

Letter from Deputy Secretary Marten re: Using Federal Funds to Support STEM Education Strategies | National Title I Association (

The ESSER Fund: Frequently Asked Questions

Where did ESSER money come from?

There are three pools of money, each associated with a different piece of legislation.

  1. March 2020: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES)–ESSER I ($13.5 billion)
  2. December 2020: The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA)–ESSER II ($54.3 billion)
  3. March 2021: The American Rescue Plan Act–ESSER III ($122.8 billion)
How are ESSER funds allocated to states and school systems?

States are allotted money from the federal government based on how much Title 1, Part A funding they receive. States must distribute a minimum of 90% of ESSER funds to local districts (LEAs) based on Title 1 funding and can retain up to 10% for emergency educational needs. ESSER funds are not subject to Title 1 requirements.

What is the timeline for using ESSER funding?

The state education agency (SEA) must apply to the U.S. Department of Education for ESSER funds and then disperse ESSER funds to LEAs within one year, as stated in the ESSER Fund Certification and Agreement.

LEA spending deadlines:

            ESSER I            September 30, 2022

            ESSER II           September 30, 2023

            ESSER III          September 30, 2024  

How does my school district get their ESSER funds?

Districts must apply to the state education agency (SEA) and LEAs will receive money based on Title 1 allocations, within 1 year of the state receiving federal ESSER funds. You can learn more by reading the ESSER Fund Frequently Asked Questions.

What can ESSER funding be used for in science education?

Here is a short list of how ESSER funds may be used to augment and improve science education in your school. Federal guidance may be found here. It should be noted that the state education agency (SEA) cannot restrict the local education agency’s (LEA) use of ESSER funds. Additionally, districts that do not qualify for Title 1 funding also do not qualify for ESSER funding.

  • Sustaining safe school operation
  • Addressing students’ social, emotional, and learning needs
  • Enrichment programs during the summer and school year
  • Intensive tutoring that accelerates learning for students most impacted by the pandemic
  • Hiring counselors, social workers, school psychologists, nurses, and other support staff
What are some allowable uses for ESSER funds for science education?

There are many allowable uses–for instance, science education projects, materials, supplies, PPE, and lab equipment can be purchased with ESSER funds. Here are some examples:

Keep in mind, there are deadlines to spend ESSER monies, so plan your projects now and make a list of what you need to have a top-notch science classroom. Choose the items you need to enhance your science instruction, boost student engagement, and elevate learning success. Dream big!

What are the next steps?

Take a good look around your science classroom and a close look at what your students really need to succeed; then, make a list. Carolina is here to help you shop for everything on your list, from lab materials to curricula. You can even find what you need to design and outfit a new lab.

Action items:

  • Check with your building administrator to ascertain who is managing ESSER funds for your district.
  • Get the necessary paperwork to request funding.
  • Be ready to document positive growth in your students.

Need some inspiration? Check out our Dream Big projects page. Tutors and Carolina product managers have put their wish lists together, and you may find something you like. Need guidance? We’re happy to assist with any project. Contact us at or Phone: 800.334.5551 ext.4388 (9am to 5pm ET, Monday-Friday)

Have a question about your project or need technical assistance? Let us know

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