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Updates: ESSER Funds Grant and Digital Equity Gaps

Monday, October 12, 2020

Dear District Administrator,

This email provides an update on the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and new resources to address technology needs and digital equity gaps.

ESSER Funds Grant Update

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is releasing funds previously held in reserve due to the resolution of litigation regarding the proportional share for equitable services. The amount for equitable participation will be determined based on low-income student enrollment. DPI has updated the ESSER Funds grant application in WISEgrants. Beginning today, you will be able to budget the funds previously held in reserve. These funds will be distributed for services in public and private schools, depending on the distribution of low-income student enrollment. WISEgrants will update the amounts available for public schools and each private school. Please note, the use of low-income enrollment in this calculation to determine the proportional share for equitable participation does not limit the scope of who may receive services in both public and private schools.

Private schools within your local education agency should be made aware that the legal issues surrounding equitable participation have been resolved and that their share for equitable services is now finalized. Some private schools may have received a larger share than originally anticipated and further consultation on how best to meet the needs of the students may be necessary. You can find the share for each private school in WISEgrants. Log into WISEgrants and in the blue menu bar click the following: Programs > CARES Act > Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund. Then scroll down to the middle of the page and click “ESSERF Proportional Share for Equitable Participation.”

ESSER funds support costs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. Your district may use these funds to cover a wide variety of expenses related to COVID-19 (see ESSER Allowable Costs document for additional details). In order to access and claim your ESSER funds, your local education agency must submit, and DPI must approve, your ESSER funds application. Complete the ESSER funds grant applications in the WISEgrants Web Portal and refer to the ESSER Start Guide for assistance with this grant. Send any ESSER related questions to

Addressing Technology Needs and Digital Equity Gaps
DPI has been working with CESA Purchasing and Internet service providers (ISPs) on creating new programs allowing you to serve your student households with Internet access to address:

  • How you can gather data about which students have access and which do not, and
  • How you can leverage CARES funds to connect those households.

Digital Equity Gap Data can be sent by school districts through their local student information system (SIS) via WISEdata. Districts having sent their data through WISEdata can also view their own data in the WISEdash (For Districts) Digital Equity Dashboard. As a reminder, the Digital Equity Gap Data can be used to:

  • Ensure you are able to track and support the needs of every student,
  • Identify possible Internet providers that can serve a student location,
  • Advocate and plan for broadband investments in your community, and
  • Fulfill reporting requirements.

For districts transmitting their data through their SIS via WISEdata, DPI is utilizing EducationSuperHighway’s (ESH) mapping tool to help visualize where unconnected students are and overlay Internet service providers who can connect those students. Districts can begin using the mapping tool by adding a read-only subscription to EducationSuperHighway in the WISEdata Ed-Fi Credential application. For complete instructions, refer to the Ed-Fi Credential tutorial. These maps identify available options, helping districts to leverage newly available CARES funds and discounted Internet services available through DPI and CESA Purchasing’s Digital Learning Bridge Program.

DPI also provides Internet Survey Tools to address digital equity gaps and ESH created a playbook with best practice guidance, tools, and resources to support districts.

If you need additional assistance, email