On March 11, 2021 President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, putting nearly $2 trillion into all facets of the American economy. This legislation allocates approximately $122 billion to public education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER, or in this case ESSER III since it is the third round of relief funding), including $4.25 billion for public education and $84 million for afterschool and summer learning in Georgia. This is an incredible opportunity and the funding we need to reimagine the future for our kids and all Georgians. We must seize this moment to build something sustainable, communal, and equitable.
With these funds, we can take an enormous step closer to reachingevery kid in Georgia through high-quality programming and doing it in a way that engages whole communities. Together we can design and implement youth- and family-centric supports that will reduce poverty, proactively address racial and gender equity, and catch up those kids who most need us right now. With a collaborative, coordinated effort to advocate at the local, regional, and statewide levels, we can invest in community partnerships to build a sustainable ecosystem of support for whole child development and whole communities.
GSAN developed and continues to update this webpage as a toolkit to support all Georgia youth development providers in advocating for funded partnerships with their local school districts. We recommend using this toolkit in the order of sections below or you can expand specific sections relevant to your current advocacy efforts. As always, GSAN is here to support you. We would love to learn more about your local outreach efforts and hear what would be most helpful for you at this time. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect or request additional guidance.
Breakdown of ESSER III Funds for Georgia
The flowchart below shows how the total $4.25 billion in ESSER III funds will be allocated to the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and local education agencies (LEAs = school districts).
Here, you can also search a list to see how much your school districts are estimated to receive.
As a youth development provider, we hope you will advocate to your local school districts to partner with you to provide afterschool and summer learning programs for their students using funds from their 20% minimum reserve for learning loss, which explicitly calls out summer and afterschool programs as an allowable use.
Timeline & Status of ESSER III Funds for Georgia
- March 11, 2021: American Rescue Plan (ARP), including ESSER III funds, signed into law.
- April 11, 2021: US Department of Education provided states with ESSER III spending guidelines, which include afterschool and summer learning and enrichment as evidence-based interventions for accelerated learning and explicitly recommends partnering with community-based organizations to implement those interventions.
- Now: School districts deciding how they will spend ESSER III funds, specifically their 20% reserve for learning loss, which can be used for afterschool and summer programs. Districts may reach out to existing partners or open up a Request for Proposals (RFP) from community-based organizations. Be on the lookout and don’t be afraid to be proactive!
- Now: GSAN advocating at state, regional, and local levels for learning loss, summer, and afterschool reserves to be invested in community partnerships.
- Now: Community-based organizations advocating to school districts for learning loss reserve to be invested in afterschool and summer learning programs with their organizations.
How to Advocate for Funding a Partnership with Your Organization
While an opportunity of this size requires coordinated advocacy at all levels across Georgia, 90% of these funds will be in the hands of your school districts, which will require local action. Deep community connections and strong relationships with the schools and school districts that the kids you serve attend will be more critical than ever. We encourage you to follow these steps and use their corresponding, detailed sections below to prepare and engage as soon as you’re ready:
- Educate yourself
- Build your case
- Reach out
- Educate stakeholders & decision makers
- Keep the conversation going
Step 1: Educate Yourself
Before taking action, make sure you’ve developed a strong understanding of this opportunity, the types of evidence-based programs and practices school districts will be looking to implement to address learning loss, and GSAN’s statewide advocacy strategies, which will support your local advocacy efforts. At a minimum, we recommend reviewing the following:
- This GSAN webpage – you’re more than halfway through!
- Planning for Impactful Summer Learning – an overview of how school-community partnerships can provide a vehicle for aligning services and leaning on and utilizing the expertise, resources, and capacity that exist in multiple sectors
- Help Kids Recover Webpage – a new joint campaign across multiple national afterschool and summer learning organizations aimed at connecting local education leaders and community organizations. Highlighted are evidence based practices and the impact of afterschool and summer learning programs– particularly, the following:
- U.S. Department of Education’s ESSER III Spending Guidelines for States – specifically section II.A (pages 18-24) on expanded learning time
- Leveraging Stimulus Funds for Community Partnerships – presentation about how to advocate to fund partnerships between school districts and community based afterschool and summer learning programs
Step 2: Build Your Case
Build your case for why school districts should partner with your community organization to provide afterschool and summer learning programs for their students. Here are the big questions you should consider and document your answers to:
- Youth served: Who do you serve now? How can you expand – who can you serve/where and how many students?
- Quality/impact: What youth outcomes does your program support? It will be important to focus on how your program supports the development of academic, social, and emotional skills. It will also be important to have data/evidence to prove this. Other key questions, based on the U.S. DOE guidelines:
- Do your curricula/activities align with the Georgia Standards of Excellence and your school districts’ curriculum?
- How/does your program target youth needing additional support?
- Does your program staff include certified teachers?
- Does your program offer youth any certifications or other benefits upon completion?
- What does your process for evaluating and improving the quality of your program look like? Do you utilize the Georgia Afterschool & Youth Development Quality Standards?
- Community support/engagement: How does your organization also provide essential services and support (eg, transportation, healthy meals) to students and families? How did your organization step up to serve families throughout the pandemic?
- Operations: How are you currently operating (ie, program format and length)? How are you planning to operate this summer/next school year? How flexible can you be (eg, for summer programs, can you offer both partial and full day options?)?
- Funding required: What is the cost of your program? What are your anticipated additional costs related to COVID-19 and operating safely in-person (eg, PPE, social distancing, etc.)? Please consider that programs offered through community partnerships should be free for all families.
- Proposed partnership: How can your organization/programs support district goals? How can you and your district set and achieve shared goals for students?
Step 3: Reach Out
- Identify key stakeholder relationships and potential connections to decision makers
- District leadership: Superintendents, chief instructional officers or staff, chief innovation officers or staff, principals, or even afterschool directors where school districts may already have some internal infrastructure for afterschool and summer learning programs
- Local businesses: Afterschool and summer programs prepare the workforce of tomorrow and supports the workforce of today – local business and chambers of commerce are helpful advocacy allies and connections to your school districts
- Collective impact/philanthropic organizations: Everyone will benefit from creating more, stronger partnerships between schools and community organizations – collective impact organizations, coalitions, and private funders may all be helpful connections to your schools and school districts
- Reach out to everyone you know
- Email Outreach Template for reaching out to district leadership and staff
- Reuse and adapt the language from this template for reaching out to local businesses and collective impact/philanthropic organizations for requesting support and connections to your school districts
Step 4: Educate Stakeholders & Decision Makers
Once you’ve scheduled a meeting with your school districts, local businesses, or collective impact/philanthropic organizations, prepare for the conversation and equip yourself with supporting materials:
ESSER III Conversation Guidelines and Talking Points
Afterschool Outreach One Pager
Supporting Student Learning With ESSER Funding
Holistic Ways ESSER Funds Can Combat Learning Loss
Any additional, compelling marketing materials your program has!
Step 5: Keep the Conversation Going
Follow up with all stakeholders and align on next steps. Some school districts are already releasing RFPs now, in anticipation of funds, and some are preparing for future RFPs. It is imperative that these meetings and conversations happen now so that community organizations and afterschool and summer learning programs are every school district’s priority when it comes to budgeting and formalizing partnerships.
GSAN is here to support you. We would love to learn more about your local outreach efforts and hear what else would be most helpful for you at this time. Please email us at email@example.com to connect or request additional guidance.
This toolkit was adapted from an original toolkit created by TXPOST (Texas Partnership for Out of School Time), a member of the 50 State Afterschool Network.