Funding P2: ESSER IIBy Melissa Killingbeck
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSA) was signed into law on December 27, 2020. This latest COVID-19 relief package provides critical economic support for American families, small businesses, and includes $82 billion for education. It is welcome news to schools across the nation currently faced with mounting costs associated with educating students amid a global pandemic. In addition to the financial strain that COVID-19 has placed on schools, this past year’s events have taken an incalculable toll on the social and emotional well-being of students and educators across the country. At a time when social-emotional needs are at an all-time high, schools should not have to consider cutting critical SEL supports. And, thanks to the CRRSA Act, they won’t have to.
Arriving on the heels of last spring’s CARES Act, the CRRSA Act mandates that K-12 schools receive $54.36 billion of the $82 billion earmarked for education. Available through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, ESSER II Funds will provide roughly four times more funding to K-12 schools than the $13.2 billion previously granted under the CARES Act.
The US Department of Education recently published a Fact Sheet highlighting essential facts for schools regarding ESSER II Funds to include but not limited to:
- Available for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020, and can be used for obligations through September 30, 2023.
- May be used for all items allowed under original ESSER Funds, which includes but are not limited to preparing for and responding to the impacts of COVID-19, such as supporting students’ social-emotional needs.
- The CRRSA Act includes a separate program of Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools. Under ESSER II, eligible non-public schools are now able to apply directly for services or assistance.
One district using ESSER II funds for SEL support is Fenton Area Public Schools. Fenton is purchasing The Positivity Project (P2) with one payment for three full school years, starting in 2021 and ending in 2024.
Located in southeast Michigan, Fenton currently implements P2 in grades K-12, district-wide. After witnessing firsthand the positive impact P2 has had on the distinct, Fenton Superintendent Dr. Adam Hartley approached us about the possibility of a multi-year partnership, stating, “We love P2, and we are all in!” The district’s principals added they are excited about the commitment that their superintendent is making, as they are now able to focus their energy and curricular planning around P2 as their SEL strategy.
We recognize that the additional financial strain COVID-19 has placed on schools creates a genuine hardship for many districts. P2 provides Tier I Social-Emotional Learning support through fully digital resources, scaffolded PreK-12, and therefore meets the requirements provided for the use of ESSER II funds under the CRRSA Act. With the added flexibility of using ESSER II funds to settle obligations through September 30, 2023, there has never been a better time for schools to follow Fenton’s lead by demonstrating a commitment to providing much-needed, ongoing SEL support for students, families, and staff through a P2 multi-year partnership.
By implementing P2, schools are taking proactive steps to build a positive school climate and culture in three very intentional ways:
- Through daily digital lessons, delivered through Google Slides and differentiated for every grade from PreK-12, students learn about positive psychology’s 24 character strengths and the Other People Mindset. This consistency helps individual students develop self-determination and empathy, which we believe are the building blocks of positive relationships and a person’s best self.
- P2 for Families (P2F2) provides an easy and effective way for parents and caregivers to connect meaningful conversations about character strengths and positive relationships at school to their own homes.
- P2 for Educators (P2E) has been explicitly developed for Partner School principals to use with their staff. P2E resources support meaningful professional development that enhances school climate, culture, and well-being by deliberately engaging staff, as adults, with lessons on the importance of positive relationships and character strengths in their own lives.