Since March 2020, the federal government has provided $190 billion in pandemic aid to schools, an amount that is more than four times what the U.S. Education Department spends on K-12 schools in a typical year. The Associated Press, relying on data published or provided by states and the federal government, tallied how much money was granted to nearly every school district in the country.
The AP tracked about $155 billion sent to states to distribute among schools since last year, including general pandemic relief that some states shared with their schools. Some districts will receive sums amounting to 50% or more of the cost to operate their schools for a year.
The median aid allocated to districts was about $2,800 per student, but it varies widely by district and state, according to the AP’s analysis. The median for districts in Louisiana and the District of Columbia was about $6,000 per student, for example, while in Utah it was $1,300.
The latest and largest round of funding, totaling $123 billion, is still being distributed and gives schools enormous flexibility in how to spend it. While 20% must be used to address learning setbacks, the rest can be used on nearly any cost school officials deem “reasonable and necessary.” Schools have three years to spend the latest round, a window that many district officials say is short for such a large amount of money.
About This Data
This data covers the following federal funding streams:
ESSER I: The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which allocated $13.2 billion from the March 2020 CARES Act. It was intended to reimburse districts and charter schools for costs incurred and revenue lost due to the pandemic. The money was allocated to states in the same proportion that they received it in federal Title I education aid in 2019.
GEER I: The Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was $3 billion from the March 2020 CARES Act. This was distributed to states based on a formula, but governors have discretion on how the money is spent.
ESSER II_GEER II: $54.3 billion from the December 2020 congressional relief legislation. Allocated to states following the same formula as ESSER I. An additional $4.05 billion in the legislation was awarded in another fund, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, or GEER. The majority of that was to be allocated to non-public schools based on a formula. But $1.3 billion could be used at the discretion of governors.
CRF: The Coronavirus Relief Fund, which was $150 billion from the March 2020 CARES Act. This also was part of the March 2020 CARES Act. Only some states used these funds for schools -- and those that did used only a portion of it.
ESSER III: A third major pandemic relief bill adopted in March 2021 provides nearly $122 billion to states, most of which is to be distributed to local education agencies. Not all states have published the allocations to districts, and for those that have, the numbers are preliminary.
Mark Lieberman, Reporter; Maya Riser-Kositsky, Librarian and Data Specialist; and Laura Baker, Creative Director contributed to this article.