Billion Dollar Question: How Connecticut School Districts Plan to Spend COVID-Relief Funds
Jul 21, 2022 - 2 minutes
This report breaks down how districts propose to spend hundreds of millions of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund dollars, provided under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, by the 2024 deadline as they continue to respond to the ongoing pandemic and its impacts on the academic and social-emotional needs of students.
Produced by the School and State Finance Project, FutureEd, and ConnCAN, the report's analysis of spending priorities — as well as its look at spending trends across district economic conditions and locations — reveals Connecticut districts plan to invest heavily in hiring and rewarding staff members and in addressing unfinished learning or student learning loss.
Below are some key findings from the report.
- School staffing is the top spending priority statewide with more than 50% of approved ESSER III dollars going toward hiring, rewarding, or training staff members.
- Districts with the highest rates of economically disadvantaged students are putting roughly half of their funds toward staffing, while districts in the state's most affluent municipalities are using about two-thirds of their funds for staffing.
- The state’s overall level of investment in staffing exceeds that found in the national sample.
- The ARP mandates districts spend at least 20% of their ESSER III funds to address learning loss.
- Addressing learning takes many forms in Connecticut’s districts, with investments in instructional materials and summer learning most common.
- Connecticut's districts plan to spend a combined $229 million targeting learning loss.
- The share of statewide spending on addressing learning loss is lower than the share dedicated to learning loss nationwide.
MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH
- Student mental and physical health are key concerns, with more than two-thirds of the state’s districts planning to invest in those areas.
- Districts with the highest rates of economically disadvantaged students are the most likely to spend on mental and physical health.
- Family engagement is a key strategy that Connecticut districts are far more likely to embrace than those nationwide.
- Connecticut districts plan to spend a combined $62 million for higher-need student populations, particularly students with disabilities and English language learners.
- 30% of districts plan to spend funds on supporting students with disabilities, more than twice the share of districts nationally.
- Nearly 1 in 5 districts plans to set aside money for English language learners.
FACILITIES & OPERATIONS
- Nearly three-quarters of districts plan to spend on repairs, construction projects, and transportation needs.
- As much as $238 million in 139 districts will go toward capital projects and operational spending.
- About half the projects involve improving air quality and ventilation, similar to national rates.
DiMarco, B., Martin, A., Robles, A., & Jordan, P.W. (2022). Billion Dollar Question: How Connecticut School Districts Plan to Spend COVID-Relief Funds. Washington, DC: FutureEd, School and State Finance Project, & ConnCAN. Retrieved from https://ctschoolfinance.org/resource-assets/Billion-Dollar-Question.pdf.