Seemingly overnight, the entire face of K-12 education completely shifted. Due to COVID-19, schools were forced to rethink how to deliver education in a new digital format. The majority of districts did not have a 1:1 program in place, meaning new devices had to be made available and issued to individual students without funding, training, or time for planning.
This also meant the IT structure for K-12 had to be established to enable both in-person and remote environments for teaching and learning. Attendance declined as thousands of enrolled students vanished due to digital inequity, learning disabilities, and limited access, among other reasons.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) had to be ordered and provided, and enhanced cleaning procedures were put in place. Furthermore, COVID-19 testing and screening had to be rolled out. Ultimately, for these reasons among many more, the pandemic devastated school budgets.
In January 2021, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) surveyed 860 principals and assistant principals in elementary and middle schools to ask whether their budget was sufficient to respond to the effects of an unprecedented year.
Considering the limited amount of response funds available and the increase in additional needs, only 8% of respondents said that “substantial” resources are specifically set aside to address learning loss. NAESP Executive Director L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE stated, “For school leaders to appropriately respond in the coming months, additional federal support is urgently needed.”
Fast forward to March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was passed and signed. Section 2001 of the Act is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, which provides nearly $123 billion in funding for K-12 education agencies.
How are ESSER Funds Allocated?
Under ESSER, funding is distributed to each state and district based on the amount of Title I funding received. A minimum of 87.5% of state funding must be subgranted to school districts.
In addition, there are three set purposes that states are required to allocate funds toward:
- 5% to address learning loss
- 1% for comprehensive after school programs (evidence-based)
- 1% for summer enrichment (evidence-based)
So, what about school districts? Are there any other requirements for distributing funds?
K-12 districts are required to use a minimum of 20% of funds to address learning loss. This requirement is put in place in order to respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs through evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or enrichment, extended day, afterschool programs, or extended school year programs.
For the remaining 80% of funds, any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act; and Adult Education and Family Literacy Act Fund is acceptable.
Additionally, ESSER details a variety of other purposes allowable under the act, including addressing learning loss among all students and purchasing educational technology.
How Should My School District Allocate Funds?
Learning loss is the top targeted issue in ESSER funding. Modern identity and access management (IAM) platforms, including RapidIdentity, prevent the delay of learning loss by enabling students and educators to quickly connect to their applications and learning resources.
RapidIdentity is an end-to-end IAM platform that includes secure, single sign-on (SSO), automated rostering, identity lifecycle management, application security via multi-factor authentication (MFA), and identity governance.
By making it simple to connect into the digital classroom, all users within the educational community are provided equity of access, and students are prevented from the technical limitations that can hinder learning.
Educational technology, including hardware, software, and connectivity, is another allowable area for ESSER funds. The pandemic has highlighted how crucial the role of technology plays as technology is embedded in nearly every facet of K-12 education. However, districts often use a variety of systems, and when those systems don’t interact, the learning experience and workflows become encumbered and limit students’ learning potential.
What’s more, as the schools continue to teach and learn online or in a hybrid environment, K-12 remains a prime target for malicious actors. In December 2020, the FBI reported that 57% of all U.S. ransomware attacks in August and September 2020 were to K-12 schools. That’s why it’s more critical than ever before to ensure districts are armed and prepared with the appropriate edtech technology to decrease these risks.
RapidIdentity addresses K-12’s interoperability and cybersecurity challenges by connecting applications and data to keep people and assets safe, but also to maximize learning time. For example, RapidIdentity Lifecycle eliminates security gaps and manual processes by automating and managing account creation, changes, and deletions—at scale— for all users, including students, teachers, staff, parents, substitutes, vendors, and more.
Moreover, RapidIdentity Rostering automates the process of integrating and synchronizing student roster data with target applications. This ensures that not only students have access to the appropriate class resources when they change courses or schedules, but also that your district has an accurate accounting of licenses.
Purpose-built for K-12 and younger students in mind, RapidIdentity also simplifies the authentication process through kid-friendly QR code and Pictograph authentication methods, allowing more time for learning, and less time trying to guess usernames and passwords.
Through these technologies and many more, RapidIdentity aims to empower educators and students everywhere with access to secure, reliable, and flexible learning environments.
How Can I Learn More?
As districts are trying to uncover how to use the new ESSER funding available, there are many questions currently left unanswered. Stay tuned as we update this blog as more information continues to unfold.
For additional information regarding the ESSER Fund, please visit the following resources:
- State-by-state breakdown of funds awarded, spent, sub-grantees and more provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Funding tracker provided by Education Week.
- ESSER Fund tracker provided by National Conference of State Legislators.
To learn more about how RapidIdentity safeguards learning environments, maximizes instructional time and minimizes the load on Information & Instructional Technology teams, please visit: https://www.identityautomation.com/how-we-help/your-industry/k-12-education/.