SEL Funding: Using The CARES Act and The American Rescue Plan Funding for SEL

The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act are not only providing historic levels of funding for K–12 schools and districts, but also providing an opportunity for schools and districts to secure a long-term and sustainable foundation for social and emotional learning (SEL). 

SEL is getting much-needed and well-deserved priority in how the dollars can be spent! 

Learn about the funding that is available for SEL and read our tips to make sure your school or district secures your share of the allocated dollars.

Types of Funding Available for SEL

The 2020 CARES Act provided $13.2 billion to elementary and secondary schools and districts to address COVID-19’s impact. The American Rescue Plan includes the following:

  • $123 billion for K–12 state education agencies. Of these funds, $800 million is earmarked for children experiencing homelessness and those hardest hit by the pandemic.
  • $2.75 billion is available to governors to assist private schools. 
  • $3 billion is allocated for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The good news for SEL is that at least 20% of district funds must be used to address learning loss through evidence-based interventions that support students’ academic and SEL needs.

Tips for Securing SEL Funding

Below are some general tips that will help your school or district find and attain SEL funds.

Consider These Guiding Questions

As you prepare to apply for SEL funding, be sure to answer these questions:

1. How can you use federal and state funds most effectively?

2. What data, evidence, and protocols are needed to justify specific funding areas?

3. How will you coordinate efforts and adopt the most coherent approach across many funding streams, including ARP ESSER and CARES Act funds?

Figure Out Your SEL Budget

Whether you are just beginning an SEL pilot or small-scale implementation, or if you are providing SEL assessments and curriculum across your entire district, you will need to map out a budget to support your plan. A great resource to guide you through this process is the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) “Roadmap to Financial Sustainability.” Included are actual site SEL budgets, handy budget calculators, and case studies about a variety of districts’ SEL implementations. Review these models and use them to help craft an SEL program that will work for your district and resources.

Broaden Your SEL Research Vocabulary

When looking and applying for funding, it’s important to keep in mind the broad range of areas that SEL supports. Here are a few terms to consider broadening the net:

  • Social and emotional skills
  • Social and emotional competencies 
  • School climate and culture 
  • Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
  • Character education
  • Conflict resolution
  • Restorative justice
  • Equity
  • Bullying prevention
  • Resilience building
  • Trauma-informed practices
  • Mental health
  • School safety
  • Positive youth development
  • 21st century skills
  • Chronic absenteeism
  • Personalized learning
  • College- and career-readiness
  • Adult health and well-being
  • Professional development
  • Continual improvement

Resources for Your Grant Team

The requirement that at least 20% of district funds be reserved for addressing learning loss through evidence-based programs that support students’ academic, social, and emotional needs means there is a big slice of the pie that is available to support SEL.

As your grant team applies for funds, keep in mind several key funding expenditure areas within ARP ESSER and CARES that are applicable to SEL:

  • Evidence-based SEL programs
  • SEL programs that support educators’ health and well-being
  • Professional learning
  • SEL assessments
  • Summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs
  • Staff retention (including counselors, social workers, etc.)
  • Mental health services

We are excited that SEL is finally getting the recognition — and funding opportunities — it deserves. Our staff at Aperture Education understands the importance of long-term funding of your SEL program, and we are happy to help you explore funding resources and programs that will increase its longevity and sustainability. Fill out the form below if you would like more information about our SEL products and services.

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