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ESSER III Proposed Plan

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Dear District Administrator:

This email provides information on the Department of Public Instruction‘s (DPI) plan as submitted to the Joint Committee on Finance co-chairs for the third iteration of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER III), as included in the American Rescue Plan Act. The DPI focused its plan on ensuring every local education agency (LEA) receives at least $600,000 and additional amounts to address learning loss for districts that receive less than $700 per pupil. Details of the plan follow below but are subject to the approval of the Joint Committee on Finance.

ESSER III provides $1,540,784,854 to Wisconsin’s public schools. Funds are available for use through September 30, 2024.

90 Percent of Funds
Ninety percent ($1,386,706,369) of the ESSER III dollars must be distributed to LEAs in proportion to each LEA’s respective share of funding under Title I, Part A (Title I-A) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 for 2020-21. DPI has these allocations by LEA for your reference.

All LEAs receiving funds under this provision are required under the law to reserve no less than 20 percent of their Title I-A based ESSER III allocation for the purpose of addressing learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions. Under the law, these interventions must:

    1. Respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs; and
    2. Address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care.

DPI has created a chart comparing the usage of funds for all three ESSER programs.

10 Percent Set-Aside
Non-earmarked Funds (Three percent)

  • Two and a half percent for a $600,000 floor to ensure every LEA receives a minimum allocation. LEAs with 25 or fewer students would receive a $200,000 floor.
  • One-half percent for administration
    • $5 million from DPI’s administrative funds to provide direct support to LEAs to obtain high quality, standards-aligned instructional materials, and curriculum-based professional learning resources and will focus on reading outcomes to address learning disruption and learning loss among students who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID pandemic.
    • $1.8 million for administrative purposes to implement the federal program.

Earmarked Funds (Seven percent)

DPI proposes to distribute the ESSER III earmark funds directly to LEAs as grants. The largest grant will be a formula grant. DPI is required to reserve the following amounts (as a percent of the state’s total ESSER III allocation):

  • Five percent ($77 million) for the implementation of evidence-based interventions to address learning loss.

DPI proposes to distribute these earmark funds to LEAs under a non-competitive formula grant process to any LEA receiving less than $700 per pupil, through the Title I-A and minimum floor allocations. This approach will provide allocations from the earmark for learning loss to 90 LEAs providing an estimated additional $296.32 per pupil.

  • One percent ($15 million) for evidence-based summer enrichment programs distributed through a competitive grant basis.
  • One percent ($15 million) for evidence-based comprehensive afterschool programs distributed through a competitive grant.

General Provisions
DPI will encourage all LEAs to consider including a focus on improving reading outcomes as part of their plans for using ESSER III funding, and further, how utilizing standards-aligned materials and supporting professional learning to implement those materials effectively can be part of the LEA’s larger strategy to combat learning disruption and learning loss, generally.

All local education agencies that receive ESSER III funding are required under the law to have a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services and make it publicly available on the LEA’s website within 30 days of receiving the funds.

  • Before making the plan publicly available, the LEA must seek public comment on it.
  • If an LEA has a plan for safe return to in-person instruction that was created prior to the passage of ARPA, and the plan meets all criteria under ARPA, the LEA may use that plan to meet this requirement.

Next Steps
DPI will be required to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Education to access the full allocation of ESSER III funds. That application is not yet available, but it is expected to be available later this month. That application or related guidance may impact the DPI’s plan for funds.

DPI must also wait to provide additional information to LEAs about the distribution of any funds until the Joint Committee on Finance either approves DPI’s ESSER III plan or convenes a meeting of the Committee members to take action on DPI’s plan.

DPI will work with the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators to communicate with you directly once the Joint Committee on Finance has given the DPI approval to move forward.

If you have questions about DPI’s plan, please contact Erin Fath, Policy and Budget Director, at


Mike Thompson, PhD
Deputy State Superintendent