E.g., 10/01/2023
E.g., 10/01/2023
ESSER: Moving the Needle on Equitable and Adequate Education Funding for English Learners
Policy Briefs
July 2023

ESSER: Moving the Needle on Equitable and Adequate Education Funding for English Learners

Even as the nation’s 5 million English Learners (ELs) make up one in ten students enrolled in public K-12 education, federal funding has not kept up with their population growth. The result is a long-standing lack of equitable and adequate federal funding to support ELs’ language development and help them thrive academically. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, hitting all students hard, it exacerbated many of the inequities and challenges experienced by ELs.

As part of a series of massive relief packages that sought to mitigate the economic and other effects of the pandemic, Congress provided nearly $190 billion to support public schools and the most vulnerable and historically marginalized students, including ELs. These unprecedented federal investments in public K-12 education, referred to collectively as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, have presented states and school districts with an opportunity to counter the impacts of school closures and remote learning—and in some cases, to address long-standing disparities caused by historically inadequate funding for ELs’ education.

This issue brief reports findings from a project that sought to understand how school districts were investing ESSER funds to support ELs. It provides a brief overview of ESSER funding and accountability measures; highlights examples of investments made to support ELs’ academic recovery, social-emotional learning, student re-engagement, and teacher retention; and concludes with recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  ESSER Funding Landscape

3  Accountability Measures in ESSER Funds

4  Understanding ESSER Investments to Support ELs
A. Academic Recovery
B. Social-Emotional Learning
C. Student Re-Engagement
D. Teacher Retention and Capacity

5  Conclusion and Recommendations