Teachers searching for funding to purchase IHT ZONE heart rate monitors for their schools should request a portion of nearly $200 billion in federal funding that will be distributed to local school districts over the next two years.
The U.S. Department of Education -- through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title IV, Part A – will deliver $192 billion to local districts, the last of which must be spent by Sept. 30, 2024.
“This is the most flexible (federal) funding we’ve seen in a long time,” Arizona Department of Education Title IV-A Safe, Healthy and Active Students Specialist Keri Schoeff said. “You can do things with this money that you couldn’t do before.”
The most important thing Schoeff and other health and PE advocates say about the unprecedented federal funding: teachers must have the confidence to formally ask for some of this money.
“The biggest thing is for you to have the confidence to go for it,” IHT President Jen Ohlson said. “Share your vision and go for some of this money that’s available.”
To increase the chances of success, here are some things to consider.
Understand What to Ask For
While the money comes from the same place, ESSER and ESSA funding are different grants and have their own criteria. Irving (Texas) Independent School District Health and PE Coordinator Sandi Cravens has won multiple ESSA grants to purchase IHT ZONE heart rate monitors for her district’s middle schools. Understanding ESSA’s requirements, specifically for Title IV, Part A funding – also known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant -- helped her build a proposal her administration accepted.
“I did more research,” Cravens said about her application for ESSA Title IV, Part A funds. “The program has to impact academic development and it had to be a new program. I had videos. I had a one-page document outlining everything.”
“You have to know the language,” McAllen (Texas) Independent School District Coordinator for Health and Physical Education Mario Reyna said. Reyna has won several ESSA grants from his district to add IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to his district’s middle schools.
The IHT ZONE meets all of the requirements to be included in a request for ESSA Title IV, Part A funding, including:
- Providing students with a well-rounded education including programs such as STEM and computer science, and health and physical education, among others.
- Supporting safe and healthy students with comprehensive school mental health, drug and violence prevention, and health and physical education.
- Supporting the effective use of technology that is backed by professional development, blended learning, and education technology devices.
The ESSER funding, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act (CARES), provides much more funding with fewer requirements than ESSA funding. ESSER funding can be used as “emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation,” according to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website.
Schools can use ESSER funding for the following types of programs:
- Existing purposes under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other laws.
- This includes ESSA Title I, Title II and Title IV, Part A
- Purchasing educational technology — “including hardware, software, and connectivity” — for students, including assistive or adaptive devices and equipment.
- Provision of mental health services and support.
Knowing Where to Make a Request
The federal funding goes directly to each state’s main education agency, where it is then distributed to each local education agency. Most states use a per-student formula to allocate the money to each local school district. Each district has the freedom, with certain guidelines, to allocate the money where it sees the greatest need. Most districts have a federal funding coordinator or grant manager who reviews requests and allocates the funding.
Regardless of the school district’s size, identifying the funding coordinator proves very helpful. Humble (Texas) ISD Coordinator of PE/Wellness Helen Wagner introduced herself to Director of State and Federal Programs Dr. Jamie Bryson before submitting a request. The request was eventually funded.
“It is critical to build an individual relationship in the special programs or title funding departments,” Wagner said. “Know who they are, introduce yourself, and explain your program. Some districts are big, and it means a lot to make that connection. They may not know who you are at first.”
Relationship-building can help increase the chances that a proposal will receive funding.
Understand the Federal Funding and its Spend-by Deadlines
Three rounds of ESSER funding have already been delivered (or allocated) to local school districts to aid response to the pandemic. These funds have different spend-by dates – dates that the funding must be spent or the district risks losing it:
- ESSER I’s $13.5 billion must be spent by Sept. 30, 2022
- ESSER II’s $54.3 billion must be spent by Sept. 30, 2023
- ESSER III’s $126 billion must be spent by Sept. 30, 2024
Schoeff, speaking on a webinar that IHT hosted in September, 2021, advised teachers interested in this funding to know these dates.
“When you are having these conversations with principals, administrators, or anyone else in your district that you’re going to be working with, it’s important to know (the spend-by dates),” Schoeff said.
While most of the funding specific to ESSER I may already be spent or allocated, it’s unlikely that a school district has already allocated all of its ESSER II and III funds.
“When they tell you that the funds are already spent or already allocated, they might not be talking about all three rounds of ESSER,” Schoeff said. “ESSER III was a really big chunk of money so there may be some out there even if you are originally told it’s not.”
And when submitting a proposal, use the research and data to bring the decision-maker into an ownership role for the project. Health and PE teacher and advocate Dr. Kymm Ballard takes that approach when making requests for things she needs for her program.
“'I'm telling you what I think will best benefit the students and their overall health and fitness and why I am seeking funding for this,” Ballard said she tells decision-makers. “’Trust the data and make the investment in the students. Let's make a difference in these students' lives.’”