K-12 government funding for US schools and how it can be used

kids smiling in school bus windows

The federal government recently announced plans to significantly increase spending on K-12 school programs for the 2022 fiscal year. 

This is great news for LEA’s and schools, who need the government distributed title funds to support disadvantaged students, provide professional development opportunities for staff, and assist underperforming schools. 

There are five primary title funds: Title I, Title II, Title III, Title IV, and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). 

Plus, in response to the ongoing pandemic, the new Coronavirus, Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was introduced last year. 

All of these programs are tied to the Everyday Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal law that promotes equity in education and defines how funds must be used. 

Most Title Funds are governed by four formulas, compiled from national census data. 

The Department of Education uses this data to highlight which school districts have the highest need, and the formulas are used to decide on the amount and level of support given.

It’s worth remembering that data compiled from the national census record is applied differently across most title funds, as they all serve a different purpose.  

Understanding how each program works can be tricky, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with how state education authorities allocate resources and money.

Seeing as we’re at the start of a new school year, we think now is a great time to take a closer look at how each Title Fund works.

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  1. Title I Funding 
  2. Title II Funding 
  3. Title III Funding 
  4. Title IV Funding
  5. IDEA Funding
  6. The CARES Act

Title I Funding 

With most grants, LEA’s must spend their allotted funds in a single fiscal year (June-July), but with Title I funds, LEA’S can carry up to 15% of their allocation from one year to the next, allowing for a bit more forward planning. 

First, it’s important to remember that although financial support for Title funds I – IV is released every July for grades 9 – 12, Title I operates a little differently. 

As you may know, Title I is designed to support underprivileged students from lower-income families. 

This year, the Title I program received more than $16.5 billion in nationwide funding, and there are plans to double this figure next year

Indeed, more Title I Funds are allocated to K-12 schools than any other grant. 

Qualifying schools must invest in students from lower social-economic backgrounds (SEM), with the total amount determined by the national census formulas we mentioned earlier.

But, what can Title I funds be spent on?

How it can be used

Title I funds can be used with two specific school programs, known as “the targeted assistance program” and “the school-wide program.”

Targeted assistance programs are designed for specific students who have the most need, and resources must supplement rather than supplant a child’s school routine. 

School districts where a minimum of 10 students have been identified as disadvantaged can qualify for targeted assistance.  

Here are how some schools use targeted assistance to support students: 

  • Counselling services.
  • Mentoring. 
  • Career preparation programs.
  • Services to support parental involvement.

As the title suggests, a school-wide program is designed to improve overall performance and doesn’t target specific students. 

School districts where at least 40% of children are low-income students are eligible for school-wide programs. 

Here are some examples of how funds can be used in a school-wide program: 

  •  Computers and software that aid online learning. 
  •  Equipment and materials that allow schools to monitor student progress. 
  •  Positive behavior intervention programs.
  •  Community engagement activities. 

Learn more about Title I funding.

Title II Funding

For Title II, the federal government uses those same four formulas used to allocate Title I funds: Basic Formula, Concentration Formula, Targeted Formula and Education Finance Incentive Formula.

But, Title II works differently because LEAs submit applications on behalf of their schools for funding. The formulas above are used to determine the level of support needed for each district.     

However, Title II is not used to support disadvantaged students directly. Instead, Title II funding supports the development of education professionals. 

Like Title I, funds for individual schools are decided by the number of low-income students, with larger school districts also favored. 

But there is a big difference in the amount of funding available, with Title II receiving around $2 billion in nationwide funding, a fraction of the financial resources allocated to Title I.

How it can be used

So, what can Title II funds be used for? 

Here’s some helpful information that goes into more detail on how to get the most out of Title II, and below are some suggestions on how you can use this grant to benefit your school if you’ve received Title II funding.

  • Increase your teachers’ knowledge of specialist subjects. 
  • Invest in academic tutoring to boost the performance of SES students. 
  • Training in how to use new technology in the classroom. 
  • Extra support for teachers who work with children with disabilities. 
  • Training for educators who work with English language learners (ELLs).

Title III Funding 

Title III funding is purely for English language learners (ELLs) and recently arrived immigrants. 

Financial support can only be used to help students improve their English language skills. 

Once again, national census data plays a crucial role in determining which LEA’s qualify for Title III funding, with state education authorities receiving support based on the number of ELLs they have. 

Once this figure is determined, state education authorities can create sub-grants for LEAs to use. 

Requirements for Title III funding are notoriously strict, and ELL students can only qualify for support under a comprehensive set of guidelines. 

You can find the complete requirements here, but states must prove that qualifying individuals were not born in the United States, and crucially, were raised in an environment that has impacted their ability to learn English.

But, what can Title III funds be used for if your school qualifies? Here are a couple of suggestions: 

How it can be used

  • After school tuition:  Homework can be challenging if English is not your first language. You can use Title III funds to provide extra online support for your ELL students. Skooli is home to many qualified ESL tutors. 
  • Native language books:  Research shows that students who’ve developed a high level of literacy in their first language are often able to improve their English skills rapidly. Use Title III funds to purchase a diverse range of books that cater for the first languages of all your students.  

Check out this helpful article, which details how Title III can and can’t be used. 

Title IV Funding

Title IV is also known as the 21st Century Learning Centers Program, and it’s the newest of the title funds. 

The purpose of Title IV is to help all students in the United States gain access to a well-rounded education, with a particular focus on supporting the general well-being of our children; STEM learning for students is also prioritized. 

SEAs are awarded grants based on the same formula that’s used for Title I. 

This means funds are reserved for districts with the highest student poverty levels, where comprehensive support is needed to improve overall school services. 

Bearing that in mind, what can Title IV funds be used for? 

How it can be used

School districts must spend 20% of all Title IV funding on student wellness programs, including emotional well-being, developing trauma-informed policies for school staff and mental health training. 

Students can be supported in several ways, including: 

  • STEM Programs.
  • Environmental Education.
  • Activities that promote community engagement.
  • Music and Art Programs.

You can learn more about Title IV, here.  

IDEA Funding

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) supports students with special needs.

Under this law, eligible children across the U.S.  are granted the right to a free public-school education, with IDEA ensuring their needs are met. 

Infants and toddlers (age two and under) are covered by IDEA Part C, while children and youth, defined as age three to twenty-one, receive special education services under IDEA Part B. 

IDEA governs how states must provide intervention services, and the Department of Education releases funds to SEA’s ahead of the academic year. You might be interested to know that on July 1, more than $3 billion was released to support disabled students as a sign of increased spending. 

The Office of Special Education uses three formula grants to support IDEA intervention programs, which you can learn more about here

How it can be used

You can use IDEA funding in a variety of ways to support disabled students. Below are a few examples. 

  • Counselling. 
  • Behavior management programs.
  • Flexible seating arrangements.
  • Assistive software.
  • Classroom aids.

It’s important to remember that the materials purchased with IDEA funds must benefit students with Individualized Education Programs and are not for use in school-wide programs. 

Here is further information on how SEA’s can apply for IDEA funding. 

The CARES Act 

Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in March 2020 to tackle the economic fallout caused by COVID-19. 

Part of this relief package included $13.2 billion for K-12 schools, including charter and private schools, to combat learning loss. 

This became known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), and two more stimulus packages were released in December 2020 and March 2021: ESSER 2 and ESSER 3. 

To qualify for ESSER funds, school districts must apply directly via their state Department of Education website.

All three ESSERs have the same overall objective, helping schools open safely and remain open during the pandemic. But, there are differences in how each ESSER is applied. 

For grades K-12, ESSER funds were released in July 2021. Here’s how they work. 

ESSER 1 Funds 

Funding for ESSER 1 is available from May 11, 2020, to September 30, 2021. All $13 billion made available to SEA’s must be spent by September 30, 2023, or it will be re-allocated by the federal government. 

So, what can ESSER funds be used for? 

How it can be used

All three ESSERs can be used on new hires and to avoid laying off existing staff. Money can also be spent on mental health services, developing programs that benefit underprivileged students, and purchasing sanitation supplies for use in school-wide public health initiatives

ESSER 2 Funds

Funding for ESSER 2 is available from March 15, 2021, to September 30, 2022. All $54 billion allocated to SEA’s nationwide must be used by September 30, 2023.  

How it can be used

Allowable expenses for ESSER 2 are very similar to ESSER 1, but there are three noticeable differences. ESSER 2 allows for ventilation upgrades to help halt the spread of viruses in schools, provides financial support to make classrooms COVID-safe, and tackles learning loss by providing funding for extra academic support (online learning). 

ESSER 3 Funds

Funding For ESSER 3 commenced on May 24, 2021, and will end on September 30, 2023. All $122 billion allocated to education authorities must be spent by September 30, 2024. 

How it can be used

ESSER 3 also provides funding for safely re-opening schools, but with the caveat that $800 million should be used by SEA’s to identify and support homeless children and youth.  

The Department of Education website states that “School emergency relief funds must address students’ needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and allow them to attend school and participate in all school activities.”

Final thought 

Title Funds are just one way schools can support disadvantaged students throughout the next academic year and beyond. 

Figuring out how Title Funds work can be a challenge, but with the Biden administration increasing spending on education services, it’s worth taking the time to familiarize yourself with all available options. 

Research shows that extra support via online tutoring can be a great way to help students catch up and close the learning gap caused by the pandemic.

Feel free to contact us and learn how we can help you better support your students. 

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