Advocating for Funding and Resource Equity as Federal COVID Relief Ends

The last of the $190 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds, distributed to states and school districts through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, will end in September 2024. While this one-time emergency funding was intended to primarily address the immediate impact of the pandemic on student learning, districts used ESSER funds to help address a wide range of student needs. This included tutoring and summer learning programs, mental health supports, upgrading facilities, technology, and activities to re-engage students and their families.

As the clock ticks on ESSER funds, districts leaders will have to rewrite budgets without this federal aid, and in doing so, they must keep equity at the forefront, working to find other sources of funding for successful programs when possible. And when cuts are required, they need to be made in the way that minimizes harm to underserved student groups.

When these federal funds come to their expected end, school districts across the country will have to make significant adjustments to their budgets, and painful cuts seem inevitable for many districts. This loss could be especially devastating for students attending schools in high-poverty districts and districts with the largest percentage of students of color.

While schools continue to address longstanding inequities that were exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic, it’s essential that districts’ limited resources — including remaining ESSER funds — are being used to equitably address student needs. No students should have to suffer just because ESSER funding dries up.

EdTrust, the Alliance for Resource Equity (ARE) and partner organizations have created several resources for advocates to understand these issues and advocate with district and state leaders on behalf of students.


Advocacy Templates
Downloadable MS Word templates with customizable field for your organization’s logo

Advocacy Tools

Advocating Across Government: Identify key decisionmakers to appropriately target advocacy efforts (from Alliance For Resource Equity)

Casemaking Decks: Learn how to craft equity-centered messaging designed to spur district actions (from Alliance For Resource Equity)

Sign up for the Alliance for Resource Equity’s monthly newsletter to stay up to date on new resources and advocacy tools to promote equitable allocation of resources and the sustainable spend-down of ESSER funds.


Budgeting for Equity Beyond ESSER: A Guide to Actionable State and District Policy Responses to the Fiscal Cliff

Ed Trust’s brief explains how advocates can push district leaders to spend down ESSER funds and sustain investments that are successfully addressing educational inequities. Learn more

Capitol building and school building with stack of cash in the background. Caption: $190 billionAdvocating for Education Equity as ESSER Spending Winds Down

This brief and explainer video serve as a guide to help advocates and families learn how to ensure that their district leaders make smart choices about how to budget ESSER funds in their community. Learn more

Black female teacher talking with black female teenage student at a deskA School District Guide to Advocating for Equity in American Rescue Plan Spending

This guide is designed to help advocates ask district leaders about details of their ARP spending plans to ensure their school district is prioritizing rigor and equity and using funds on practices and strategies that have been proven to work. Learn more

Blogs and Press

Capitol building and school building with stack of cash in the background. Caption: $190 billionWhat Advocates Should Know About the ESSER Fiscal Cliff

Did you know that the federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) stimulus funds for public K-12 schools are running out soon? The deadline for spending down the funds is September 30, 2024. Learn more

Capitol building and school building with stack of cash in the background. Caption: $190 billionRunning Out of Time: ESSER Spending Deadline Looms and Fiscal Cliffs Approach

(Press release) New Ed Trust brief on how school emergency relief fund investments can have long-term, positive outcomes for underserved students. Learn more

Videos and Webinars

Equitable School Spending Using COVID Relief Funds


ESSER Funding Sustainability Workshop Day 1: Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff


ESSER Funding Sustainability Workshop Day 2: Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff