What Parents Need to Know About School Budgets, ESSER, & the Upcoming Fiscal Cliff


How does Education Funding Work?

Schools have a limited amount of resources to complete the work of educating our children, but where do those resources come from? Most parents probably understand that since public schools are run by the government, the “public” pays for them. But how much does each district get? How much does each school get? Who determines that? And what about public charter schools?

We’ve compiled some resources to help parents make sense of school funding:

How are public schools funded? by USA Facts

If you have no current knowledge of school funding, this resource is the best place to start. This provides a general overview of school funding from a neutral perspective.

How Is K-12 Education Funded? by Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Another good overview of school funding here. Also introduces COVID-era relief and dives deeper into how different areas fund schools.

**If you’d like more information specifically on school funding in your state/district, we recommend searching online for specific keywords. There are an abundance of resources, but too many to list in this guide.

ESSER: Covid Relief Funds to Schools from 2020-2024

ESSER funding: What it is and how to use it before it expires, K-12 Dive

The first section of this article explains ESSER and COVID relief funds for school very well. The second and third section of this article PDE does not endorse.

ESSER Funding 101: Everything You Need to Know in 5 Minutes or Less, Transact

This resource goes into more detail about ESSER funding. Similar to the resource above, the information about ESSER in this resource is helpful but PDE does not endorse the technology company, it’s products, or strategies for spending ESSER funds laid out in this article.

ESSER funding: your guide to what’s available, how to use it, and how we can help, Work ED

This resource is much more detailed when it comes to ESSER funds which includes deadlines for school districts. This resource is important because it mentions how ESSER funds can be used for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs, equity initiatives and other programs that parents may have concerns about. 

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, U.S. Department of Education

This resource from the DoE is difficult to navigate but parents will find useful information here about ESSER funds.

**Many states have their own ESSER information pages detailing distribution of funds. A simple search online will yield results if your state has put together this database. Here is the state of New Hampshire for example. 

VIDEO: The End of ESSER: What state and district leaders in CT, MA, NH & RI should know

Even if you don’t live in the mentioned states, the information is helpful for how parents might navigate the ending of COVID funds in 2024.

VIDEO: Districts now have more staff than ever. And fewer students. What happens next?

“ESSER fueled a hiring bonanza that came on top of several earlier years of staffing growth. The result is that districts now have more staff than at any time in history. Meanwhile, over the same period, most districts have been losing students. With the end of ESSER looming, and tighter state budgets, districts know they can’t afford their expanded labor force. Is now the time to rethink the age-old strategy that the best way to serve students is to add more staff?

In this webinar we share trends we’re seeing in states and districts and discuss options for school systems to address the challenges ahead.”

Additional Resources

Understanding School Budget Jargon