Spending Your ESSER Funds “Lottery Ticket”

by | May 5, 2021 | Administrative Support, Resources, School

Did you know that 70% of lottery winners go bankrupt in 3-5 years after their “big win”?

While you would think winners would use their new found funds to get out of trouble, they often are swayed by the interests of others, or invest in something “new and shiny”. What’s more is that studies show that while the additional funds don’t make an individual more successful, they also often have a negative impact on health and happiness, rather than a presumed positive one.

The newly released ESSER Funds (which includes the CARES Act, ESSER II and the American Recovery Plan funds), is much like winning the lottery for low-income, public schools. This one-time cash windfall is unlike any in recent memory, and it is critical that schools, districts and leaders don’t fall victim to the “lottery bust”. Just as lottery winners face expectations from others, there are pressures that district leaders face from special interest groups who want additional positions, raises for current staff or new programs. While this may ameliorate the short term issue and lead to more positive interactions, schools and leaders should follow the key fiscal rule for one-time funds:

“Don’t spend one-time dollars on items that eat and breathe”.

So what are good uses of these “one time” funds that will surely lead to a funding cliff in 2024? Research repeatedly shows that the absolute best investment that leads to the highest positive change in student outcomes is investing in staff professional development which includes doses of well-being and self-care workshops. Combining this knowledge with the impacts of the current pandemic on staff and students related to mental health and wellness, social emotional learning and pro-social behavior development, professional learning focused on these elements can yield long-term positive impact on students, staff, schools and districts.

Mindful Practices has been operating since 2006 and focuses on just this — building staff capacity through ongoing staff development and training on social emotional learning for students, modules on self-care for adults, and providing hands-on activities and tools for classroom-based use that transcend our current reality. And, this isn’t the “new, shiny object” as Mindful Practices has spent more than 15 years honing these practices in schools and districts nationally.

Additionally, for the past 7 years, Mindful Practices has worked with Dr. Kiljoong Kim at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to refine the company’s efficacy and approach. Through this partnership, Mindful Practices uses diagnostics to drive their work and reports the following outcomes related to the company’s professional development offerings:

Educators report significant improvement in their ability to deliver SEL instruction using a diagnostic-approach Educators gain opportunities to monitor and connect with students based on advanced technology

When contemplating how schools will use their ESSER “lottery ticket” in the 2021-22 school year, SEL and the reinvestment in staff support and development are rising to the top as providing the most bang for the buck.

Contact Erika to see how Mindful Practices can help you make sure ESSER is your winning ticket to long term school success.

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