ESSER 3.0: A “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” Windfall

Ever wonder why organizations like USPIE are so concerned with the federal government’s involvement in education? Well, here’s yet another reason why.

Background

Last year, in order to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. This legislation provided billions of dollars to school districts through the federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) program. ESSER funds flow from the US Department of Education, through each state’s Department of Education, and are then allocated to school districts according to a demographics-based funding formula. ESSER 3.0 is the third portion of these COVID-19 relief funds and unlike ESSER 1.0 and 2.0, this round of funding requires states and districts to describe how their efforts will address:

  • the social and emotional needs of students
  • student groups for which the pandemic exacerbated pre-existing inequities
  • advancing equity and inclusivity

School districts are also required to gather stakeholder feedback on their plans. Check your district’s website to see if an ESSER survey has been posted.

Furthering a Progressive Ideology

While the specifics of a spending plan are left to local districts, the US Department of Education has released a guidance document with recommendations for how to accomplish the abovementioned goals: ED COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs (PDF)  A review of this document provides first-hand insight into the current US Dept. of Education’s ideology. Many of the suggestions in the handbook were gathered from left-leaning national groups, such as the National Education Association, and openly promote LGBTQ+ advocacy and programs steeped in a neo-Marxist framework. All under the guise of helping off-set the learning loss students have experienced due to COVID-19.

Money, Money, Money

So, districts now have millions in new funding available to them, and schools seldom leave grant dollars unclaimed. These dollars have deadlines for expenditure, as well. Vendors in the education industry are well aware of the golden opportunity in front of them.  Consulting firms that offer teacher training, education technology companies, instructional materials developers and the like are certain to start “peddling their wares” to schools and districts around the country, especially offerings focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.  This further opens the door for districts (intentionally or not) to contract with professional development providers and/or implement curriculum that uses the neo-Marxist framework of critical theory, or more specifically, critical race theory (CRT). Despite several states having recently banned CRT-related instruction, this remains a real threat.

Staying Alert

Parents and other community members should keep all of this in mind as they provide feedback to school districts on their ESSER 3.0 spending plans.  This is an opportunity to remind school officials that not all resources available to them are appropriate for our children or district educators. We must all be discerning and make it clear to school officials and school board members alike that we are holding them accountable. Your state’s ESSER plan is available online through US Department of Education’s website.

Still not sure why we should all be concerned about the federal government’s involvement in our children’s education? Take a look at what else is on the horizon:  Statement by Miguel Cardona Secretary of Education on the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education | U.S. Department of Education

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