In the spring of 2021, Wisconsin school districts were allocated over $617,450,615 in emergency education relief funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) to take comprehensive action to mitigate learning loss and to restore and maintain high-quality learning environments. In addition to to the CRRSA funds, school districts in Wisconsin will receive an additional $1.5 billion dollars under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with a specific focus on implementing the following activities:
Administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable, to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction.
Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students.
Providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students.
“ESSER I” funds under CRRSA are available to LEAs through September 2023; while the “ESSER II'' funds under ARPA are available through September 2024.
A district that uses these funds to invest in, maintain or build on to their educational coaching system would not only be meeting the requirements of the Acts; but would have this opportunity to shift away from individuals who take on a myriad of responsibilities, including that of an educational coach, to a position in which the individual’s sole role is as an educational coach.
To delineate this role from other positions, a proposal has been put forth to add Program Coordinator - Systems Coach to WISEstaff beginning with FY 2021-2022. An individual with a valid teacher, pupil services, or administrator DPI license could be eligible for this position. This position type will be made available as an option in any applicable Federal grant budget (submitted through WISEgrants), including the federal relief funding budgets.
There is no “Supplement / Not Supplant” provision under ESSER I or ESSER II, which means that a district’s existing educational coach could be funded with these new dollars without violating any federal requirements. Many individuals in the field are concerned with “funding cliffs,” worried that when the relief funds run out, new positions that were added will become an issue to sustain. However, with careful planning, educational coaching positions created using the stimulus funds can be institutionalized into the district model. When other positions open up due to staff departures, a well-built system would determine if the position would need to be replaced or if a federal grant-funded position should be moved to local funds instead; essentially keeping the district’s local costs the same. Using the “funding cliff” excuse paralyzes a district from investing in any real and meaningful change - and goes against the spirit of the purpose of the federal funds.
In recent weeks, the US Department of Education has been very clear that they expect school districts to use the funding made available under CRRSA and ARPA to directly support student learning; and are in fact ensuring that percentages of ESSER III funds are used for this purpose rather than on infrastructure projects. Using the relief funds for educational coaching meets these requirements and creates a viable long-term solution for supporting teachers and students. For Wisconsin school districts, this is the opportunity we have been waiting for - funding made available to create and establish a research-based model that works.
To learn more about how to incorporate a sustainable coaching model within your system, check out the exploration stage of the Coaching System Development Worksheet for more tips, tools and resources.