Improve Education Technology with CARES Act Funding

A general overview of the CARES Act Funding spending breakdown.

The educational landscape has changed and evolved radically in the last year due to the pandemic. Educational institutions are still scrambling to outfit teachers, students and administration with the right technology for distance and hybrid learning. However, there is a bright side. According to an EducationWeek survey of educators’ technology use during COVID-19, 58% of survey respondents said their opinion of ed tech has grown more positive as a result of the increased usage of technology during the school closures. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s also a great opportunity for institutions to establish a better technology strategy to improve this opinion. Funding for educational institutions through the CARES Act is a chance to do just that. 

A general overview of the CARES Act, for educational use, as outlined by McGraw Hill notes the federal government has provided relief funding to K–12 school districts and institutions of higher education through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF). 

The ESF includes three separate funds they are: 

  1. Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund: Provides funding to governors to use for K–12 school districts, institutions of higher education and other educational entities within their states. 
  1. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund: Provides funding to school districts, through their state educational agencies, to respond to the needs of K–12 schools as a result of the pandemic. 
  1. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, passed March 27, 2020 provided $13.5 billion to the ESSER Fund. 
  1. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), passed Dec. 27, 2020 provided $54.3 billion to the ESSER II fund 
  1. The Department of Education sent the first infusion of ESF funding in spring 2020 as part of the CARES Act. The second round of funds arrived in early 2021 as part of the year-end package Congress passed at the end of 2020. 

A FutureEd article on “What Congressional Covid Funding Means for K-12 Schools” lists the following as ways to use the CARES Act funds: 

  • Purchasing the hardware and software needed to conduct remote and hybrid learning 
  • Addressing student learning loss through evidence-based approaches, which can include assessments and distance learning equipment 
  • Providing resources that principals need to address coronavirus at their schools 
  • Supporting school district efforts to improve preparedness 

Higher Ed
According to the US Department of Education, public and non-profit schools can use their awards for: 

  • Technology costs associated with a transition to distance education 
  • Faculty and staff trainings 

Though the CARES Act and the emergency relief funds that fall under them are a boon to all education institutions, knowing what to do with them and when the funds need to be used by is tricky. Recipients must use their funds for both the CARES Act I by September 30, 2022 and CARES Act II by September 30, 2023 for those funds received under the GEER and the ESSER. Funds received with HEER must spend funds within one calendar year of receipt under CARES Act I and II. 

This means that strategic planning and support are critical for harnessing the power of education technology. A Brookings report on “Beyond reopening schools” advised deploying education technology to power up schools long term in a way that meets the teaching and learning needs of students and educators; otherwise, technology risks becoming a costly distraction. Technology can help: 

  • Scale-up quality instruction through prerecorded or virtual lessons of high-quality teaching 
  • Facilitate differentiated instruction such as computer-adaptive learning or live one-on-one tutoring 
  • Expand opportunities for student practice 
  • Increase student engagement with things like Zoom or Teams, interactive polling and prerecorded messages 

Make sure you are leveraging all of your available funds before they’re gone. Contact Diversified to begin planning your technology upgrade.