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DPI to monitor 'ESSER' funding for local schools

North Dakota schools have been receiving money from the COVID-19 relief packages, under what is known as “ESSER.”

"ESSER" stands for "Elementary Secondary School Emergency Relief."

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler said the money can be used mainly for one-time spending, from personal protective equipment to dealing with “learning loss” because of a lack of in-person instruction. And she said the ESSER money is allocated according to each school’s Title One funding formula.

"That's based on the number of students in their districts living below the poverty line," Baesler said. "Those students receiving free and reduced lunch, and those that are below that line, according to the Census."

The amounts each school district receive vary widely.

"For instance, Kindred will receive $386, 423," Baesler said. "Warwick, with a smaller student size, will be receiving $5,633, 567," Baesler said, "There is certainly no 'one size fits all.'"

Baesler said the state has little to no say in how the money is being spent. But she said the federal government has tasked DPI to monitor what the districts are doing, and if the money is being spent according to federal guidelines. And she said in addition, the North Dakota Legislature is requiring reports on learning losses.

"Not just how well your students are doing overall, but how well are your students with disabilities doing," Baesler said. "How well are student living in poverty doing? How well are your Native American students doing? How well are English as a second language students doing?"

And Baesler says they will also have to report on how the districts are spending the money, both at the federal and the state level.

"They're very interested in knowing how our schools are using those funds to help student be academically successful," Baesler said.

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