March 8, 2021

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ASBO International Survey Shows How Districts Are Spending $67.5 Billion to Safely Reopen Schools
School business professionals across 40 states share how they are investing federal COVID-19 relief funds to support students during the pandemic in a new ASBO International report.

Ashburn, VA – The Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) released a new report, “How Are School Districts Investing Federal Emergency Relief Funds to Address COVID-19?” which shares key findings from a survey the association distributed to U.S. members in February 2021. Results from the survey will help policymakers and education stakeholders understand how school district leaders are investing approximately $67.5 billion of federal emergency relief dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) I and ESSER II programs to respond to the COVID-19 health, economic, and education crisis. 

“School business professionals are fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars, who deeply understand their school district’s unique financial needs and circumstances,” says ASBO International Executive Director David Lewis. “When lawmakers need information about how education resources are being used to support student learning and well-being—and why more federal aid is still needed to help schools reopen and recover from the pandemic—these education leaders are the experts to ask.”  

The survey asked respondents about their school district demographics; how much ESSER I and ESSER II funding their district received; and how they are investing these funds during school year (SY) 2019–2020, SY 2020–2021, and SY 2021–2022. 

Key findings and highlights:

  • Top priorities for investing ESSER dollars throughout the pandemic (for all SYs) include:
    • Procuring personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning/sanitation supplies and training staff on minimizing viral spread.
    • Purchasing technology and learning management systems for students and improving broadband access/connectivity (to address “homework gap” issues).
    • Other activities to maintain continuity of education services (e.g., salaries/wages, contracts, and other expenses not covered in other investment categories).
    • Addressing learning loss, providing summer school and before/after-school activities, tutoring, etc.
  • More than half of surveyed school business leaders do not believe their school district received sufficient federal funding and support to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Of those who said they received adequate support, nearly one-third expressed substantial concerns that their district cannot afford future pandemic-related costs for SY 2021–2022 without additional state and federal assistance.
  • Overall, school district leaders are concerned about being able to afford ongoing and future pandemic-related costs associated with:
    • Providing intervention and remediation for students to address learning loss and providing mental health and social-emotional care services for students and staff.
    • Fixing student connectivity/broadband or “homework gap” issues.
    • Repairing, upgrading, and maintaining school facilities.
    • Offsetting financial losses incurred due to declining student enrollment.
    • Accruing ongoing costs related to implementing CDC-recommended strategies to mitigate viral spread for a prolonged and undetermined period of time.
    • Addressing increasing HR/payroll, labor, and health costs to hire, recruit, and retain quality staff during severe labor market shortages and while providing supplemental emergency benefits and compensation during the pandemic.
    • Addressing other long-term district needs with “one-time use” federal funds, such as but not limited to rising special education costs.

For additional information, download the full report.

Learn how policymakers can help support school districts with COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and view ASBO International’s legislative resources here .