As we get back to our new normal, it’s clear the pandemic has taken a toll on those most vulnerable. I’m curious what this new recovery stage means for our philanthropic communities. Longview is spread across 50 states and partners with state departments of education, school districts, nonprofits and universities, all working toward equipping the next generation with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in our shared global future.

The educators I talk to are both exhausted and invigorated. Yes, financial assistance from the government is making a difference, but administrators are weary. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, signed into law in March, included $122 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. This is an unprecedented influx of financial support to education across states and districts, but big decisions must be made quickly.

Over the summer, public school districts submitted plans on how they’d spend relief dollars to the state. States then had to submit their own plans to the U.S. Department of Education. Some of my peers had no idea these decisions were being made. They asked, with so much money coming into our school systems, does education still need us? I’d argue they need us now more than ever.

School districts are encouraged to get community input as this money is spent over the next three years. With the right partnerships, these funds could transform education systems for years to come.

Here are a few ways small, place-based funders can help local school systems use federal relief dollars in smart and strategic ways:

  • Strategic planning: In most communities, districts need strategic planning support around leveraging recovery dollars. Small philanthropies that have established relationships with school systems can offer expertise, or the money to find it.
  • Out of school learning: Are you funding an amazing summer or afterschool program? Let your district know about the impact it’s had, and if it has the capacity to grow. You can learn more about summer learning and enrichment here.
  • Educator pipeline: Urban and rural communities’ alike struggle with attracting and retaining educators. See the Association of Teacher Colleges and Universities recommendations for using stimulus funds to address this challenge.
  • Social and emotional learning, along with mental health and safety: This is a regular theme in my conversations with colleagues, trustees and grantee partners.
  • Supporting families with returning to in person school: Students have been back in buildings for a month or longer now. Even though we are back to school, there are still health risks for educators and students.

Read the full article helping place-based funding to help families after COVID-19 by Jennifer Manise at Exponent Philanthropy.