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Top 10 ESSER Facts for Theatre Educators

The Elementary and Secondary Education Relief act (ESSER) provides new funding opportunities post-pandemic. Here’s what you need to know to make a case for your program — plus guides to ESSER and Title IV-A funding.

  1. School districts are being allocated historic amounts of federal funding from now through September 30, 2024 (deadline when the funds must be spent). 
  2. Some districts will receive up to eight times their normal federal funding. Your school district must determine how to best spend these dollars to improve access and equity to quality education opportunities for students.
  3. If there’s a Title I school in your school district, your building qualifies for funds whether or not it’s a Title I building. But be prepared to make a strong case.
  4. Although funds are being sent out based on Title I status, Title I rules and limitations don’t apply. See 15 acceptable ways to spend the funds.
  5. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), theatre education is considered core to a whole-child education program, which means you can apply for funds.
  6. Twenty percent of the funds your district spends must go to remedy learning loss — think enrichment from teaching artists and theatre connections to social emotional learning.
  7. States must send the funds directly to districts to spend at their discretion, and may not use ESSER to substantially cut normal state funding — ESSER funds are meant as a supplement, not a replacement.
  8. Find out who’s responsible for your district’s ESSER funds; often it’s your Title I person. 
  9. Prepare a reasonable, specific, and detailed ask, based on a thorough program needs assessment.
  10. If you hear no the first time, ask again! Funds will be available through September 2024.


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