Towards the Cliff We Go!

Towards the Cliff We Go!

What Happens When ESSER Funding Ends?

One Year Ago

In May of 2022, Pearl leadership attended the NSSA Conference at Brown with a sense of opportunity, excitement, and responsibility. 150 amazing people from every aspect of tutoring gathered to discuss the opportunities ahead.  

Tutoring has become increasingly popular over the last three years as a policy that has forged new paths. A growing body of empirical evidence by the Annenberg Institute has demonstrated that positive outcomes can be achieved if key tenets of high-impact tutoring are followed carefully. The evidence regarding what works is increasingly accompanied by evidence about what does not work (including on-demand homework help).


The clarity of opportunities from the conference in 2022 remains unchanged today. 

It is an imperative to declare K12 tutoring as a fundamental human right and adopt the best method to mitigate the COVID slide as well as generations of inequities in education. 

This approach can transform our national educational system to equip our students with the essential skills to succeed in school and in life.

As Spring is upon us and the end of the school year approaches, the workload on our shoulders is beginning to soften. With this sense of relief comes trepidation as educators look forward to next year. What will remain the same and what might change? One thing is certain, as the cliff approaches, so too will policy makers start putting the spotlight on programs, looking for results and demanding accountability. The funding must be contracted by Sept 2024 and spent by June of 2025. 

Recently, the Council of Chief State School Officers released a report on ESSER spending across the country. CCSSO reports that states have allocated a significant portion of relief funds to various initiatives. A majority of the fund, $4.2 billion, will go towards tutoring and accelerated learning. A total of $2.9 billion has been allocated for programs outside of school hours. In addition, around $2.4 billion will help fund higher quality curriculum/instruction and enhance digital equity.

LEAs (districts) and state DOEs continue to find themselves torn between the ease of RFPing for turnkey solutions which on the surface may seem more readily available to students or spending money on clear, proven evidence-based solutions that will benefit students that need support the most. Additionally, many LEAs struggling with sharp declines in teacher resources cannot begin to imagine adding the complexity of self-managed tutoring to their current scheduling paradigm.

With state and district programs trying to better navigate spending, RFPs will increasingly become Requests For Information (RFIs). The RFI trend will provide the opportunity to suggest alternative approaches, and perhaps even a different (evidence-based design) approach than that originally contemplated in the request. There is no doubt that ineffective spending on tutoring will not result in the sustainability of those programs. The effectiveness of both design and positive outcomes must be proven if stakeholders want tutoring money to stay in their respective tutoring programs. 

The Path Forward

Returning to what remains of ESSER (per the CCSSO), it is imperative to sustainability that forward thinking programs plan to leverage their portion of the remaining ~$4.2 billion to form tutoring community partnerships while leveraging third party evaluation to prove efficacy.  

As a core component of almost any community tutoring partnership design is the participation of higher education. Annenberg outlines three evidence-based program designs for community tutoring partnerships in their newly released HIT Higher Education Institution Playbook as Recruitment Model, Educator Pipeline Model and Community Engagement Model.  

Over the next year and a half a great deal will need to happen so that promising tutoring programs can be made sustainable. There are a number of ways that sustainability might be made possible, including: federal aid extensions,  philanthropic matching or braided funding, state DOE budget reappropriation, federal grant programs, corporate giving, and new policies focused on building better infrastructure for future teachers. Our friends at Deans For Impact (DFI) outline the final “higher-education” opportunities in their work to mobilize Aspiring Teachers as Tutors Network. As a quick resource, see DFI’s policy suggestions referenced below. 

As we look towards the final ESSER cliff, let us respond to the challenge and do what is right to make tutoring the future of education.  

We must:

  • Come together to implement High Impact Tutoring in an evidence based way for the students that need it the most 
  • Leverage evidence based approaches to data collection and proving program efficacy 
  • Build sustainable resources through partnerships in higher-education and broader communities
  • Innovate ways to scale tutoring capacity to deliver quality instruction
  • Develop better support for rural districts and schools 
  • Pay our educators what they deserve 


Pass S.3964 (The CORPS Act) and prioritize the eligibility of future teachers as awardees. 

Fund an optional 1% set-aside to expand access to tutoring by funding innovative partnerships between teacher-preparation programs, community-based organizations, and/or other non-governmental organizations.

Identify these ideas as an allowable use of funds in the next stimulus package for innovative partnerships that seek to increase the capacity to reopen schools and support students. 

Increase funding for Title II of the Higher Education Act in the FY2021 Labor-HHS-Education bill by $500 million to directly support states to develop plans that leverage future teachers. 

Allow tutoring – as described above – in high-need or low-income schools to satisfy TEACH Grant service requirements for the duration of the pandemic.  

-Attribution – Deans For Impact – Resources for Education and Policy Leaders*

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