Education Commission of the States is the trusted source for comprehensive knowledge and unbiased resources on education policy issues ranging from early learning through postsecondary education.


Subscribe to our publications and stay informed.

Request Assistance

Need more information? Contact one of our policy experts.

Innovative State Strategies for Using ESSER Funds

State and local education agencies received approximately $190 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds — one of the largest federal investments in K-12 education in U.S. history.

States are deploying their share of the resources in unique ways, including ramping up high-impact tutoring and expanding social and emotional learning support. Based on state plans, appropriations and interviews with state leaders, Education Commission of the States is sharing innovative strategies used by six states to transform learning environments and improve student outcomes in the long term.

State Case Studies

Trends In State Strategies

State policymakers continue to pursue new approaches for this historic investment to overcome the challenges experienced daily by students, teachers and school leaders. Among the approaches states have used to create and expand programs and services, we found that states are using the following innovative strategies:


Strategically identify needs of local communities. In developing plans, education agencies were required to meaningfully engage stakeholders and take public input into consideration. Some states have successfully integrated the needs of local communities into their spending.


Form new school district partnerships. Rather than doing it alone, states can encourage school districts to forge new collaborative relationships.


Equitably direct resources to students. The COVID-19 pandemic had disparate impacts on U.S. students, with many facing barriers such as housing uncertainty, limited access to technology and food insecurity. Some states have directed resources to where they are needed most and can have the biggest impact.


Implement technology-based solutions. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local education policymakers turn to technology to meet students’ immediate needs. We found that states have doubled down on their technological investments to support students.


Enhance performance monitoring to support students. Not all students have the same needs, so states have used their own metrics to target investments and monitor outcomes.


Ensure sustainability of federally funded programs. Many in the education community have expressed concerns about the long-term viability of ARP-funded programs once federal funding is depleted. States can plan now for continuing services beyond the spending deadline. ow for continuing services beyond the spending deadline.



This project has been made possible in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.



April 20, 2023

Education Level:

Resource Type:

More on This Issue

Copyright 2024 / Education Commission of the States. All rights reserved.