ESSER Grant Press Releases


March 6, 2023

Colorado School Finance Project – Tracie Rainey, 303.941.1633,
Colorado Education Initiative – Samantha Olson, 585.739.3699,

ESSER Mid-point statewide survey identifies ongoing educational needs, challenges, and lessons learned for K-12 education

Top ongoing priorities created by COVID are student emotional support and behavior, unfilled positions, and staff social and emotional support.

DENVER —  K–12 district and school leaders, educators, and community members weighed in on challenges and lessons learned related to the federal pandemic relief funds provided to Colorado schools. As Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds must be fully obligated by September 2024, the Mid-point Survey will inform the limited remaining window of opportunity to effectively spend pandemic-related stimulus dollars in ways that address priorities.

The survey was initiated by the Colorado School Finance Project (CSFP) as part of their ESSER technical assistance project that began in March 2022. Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) partnered with CSFP on this survey as part of launching Colorado’s Statewide Family Engagement Center grant. The survey builds on the statewide needs inventory work conducted by CEI and CDE in 2020. The survey was distributed by CSFP and CEI to stakeholders statewide January 17 through February 6, 2023 and resulted in 375 responses across 124 school districts and three BOCES, representing 81% of students in Colorado.

ESSER Mid-point Survey respondents identified the top three ongoing educational needs created by COVID as student emotional support and student behavior, unfilled positions, and staff social and emotional support. These challenges were consistent across stakeholders, with the intensity varying based on the group responding. 

The majority of district leaders identified navigating reporting and compliance standards as a main challenge to spending ESSER funds, followed by challenges filling available positions and hiring. While leaders expressed appreciation for these funds, many indicated the need for more sustainable funding to address ongoing staffing shortages, student social emotional challenges, and performance gaps. Additional survey results will be released in early April that further analyze perceptions by student demographics and by district size and region.

“With districts at the halfway point in the window of time they have to spend their federal pandemic funds, this data is valuable for district leaders and policymakers,” said Tracie Rainey, executive director of CSFP. “These timely results related to ongoing needs, budget priorities, challenges, communication and engagement methods, and lessons learned will help inform future decisions on how to maximize the benefit of ESSER funds.”

Survey respondents highlighted several lessons learned and insights to help drive decision-making now and in the future. Many respondents referenced the importance of adaptation as one of the biggest lessons learned during the pandemic, noting the changing needs of students and staff. The limitations of remote learning, including the importance of adequate technology, barriers to high-quality instruction, and mental health issues were central themes as well. In addition to learning gaps, district leaders noted a general concern for equity, while educators specified the additional challenges of economically disadvantaged families and the need for essential services provided by schools.  

“This survey provides a glimpse into the ongoing COVID-19 impact on students, educators, and communities. The ongoing challenges impact both student engagement and teacher recruitment and retention. Family and community members have an essential role to play in the final 19 months of ESSER spending to partner with districts in prioritizing local needs in ways that create sustainable support beyond the timelines of these funds,” said Rebecca Holmes, President and CEO of CEI.

Survey questions focused on identifying ongoing educational and community needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, district budget priorities, challenges school systems are facing with deploying ESSER funding, communication methods used by districts to engage the public, and lessons learned. View the full survey results, as well as individual district information and ESSER communication resources, on the CSFP website.



March 7, 2022
Colorado School Finance Project Receives CDE Learning and
Transparency Technical Assistance Grant

DENVER — The Colorado School Finance Project (CSFP) is a recipient of the Colorado
Department of Education’s (CDE) Learning and Transparency Technical Assistance
grant program, funded through the federal Elementary and Secondary School
Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). CSFP will offer technical services to school
districts and BOCES over the next two and a half years. CSFP will assist Colorado
school districts and BOCES in carrying out the critical role of transparency and
communication with families and communities, continued community engagement, the
use of COVID relief funds, and the impact of those funds on addressing the COVID-related needs.

Through this technical assistance program, CSFP can help school
districts inform their families and communities about the programs being offered and
how those programs are accelerating learning and recovery for their students.
The past two years have been complex and challenging for school districts as they
continuously pivoted to address the ever-evolving health and economic crises. In March
2020, school districts focused on addressing the immediate needs of students and their
communities before they were able to shift to provide stability and manage through the
pandemic. Now school districts are focused on recovery and acceleration of learning for
their students. Through the grant, field managers will work on ensuring all school
districts have the technical assistance and support needed to provide details on the
programs available for students and how to access them. The regional field managers
will provide deeper assistance by conducting workshops and providing district-level
support to help school districts meet their COVID relief fund reporting requirements.
Technical assistance will be offered through a multi-tiered approach with field managers
offering targeted technical service to every school district through workshops and
individual support; a project manager coordinating and reporting every school district’s
COVID relief funding and of how funds were used through a transparent approach
available to the general public; and a team from Augenblick, Palaich & Associates
creating best practices and tools to assist districts in communicating the impacts of the
ESSER strategies.
A kick off meeting will be held in mid-April to announce further details and to launch the
technical assistance services. Click here to be added to a mail list for future
communications about this project.

The Colorado School Finance Project founded in 1995, the Colorado School Finance Project (CSFP) is a non-profit whose mission is to compile, collect, and distribute research-based, non-partisan information and data on topics related to school finance for state and local policymakers.