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ESSER Funding For Dance in K-12 Schools
By Shannon Dooling-Cain
Posted on 8/6/2021 12:30 PM

ESSER Funding for Dance in K-12 Schools
Learn how your dance program may benefit from this new federal funding source


What is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund?

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund is designated to support K-12 schools with a Title-1 designation in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These federal funds have been issued in three rounds, with the latest round coming as part of the American Rescue Act, enacted in March 2021. State Departments of Education will administer the funds to local education agencies. They are highly flexible funds, designed to assist local education agencies and schools with COVID-19 prevention, response, and relief efforts.

What can ESSER III funding be used for?

Districts have broad flexibility as they implement the ESSER funds, so long as they are used to respond to the impact of COVID-19. ESSER III funds are designed to be used for activities that help schools prevent, prepare for, or respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These may include activities directly related to health and safety, such as the purchase of personal protective equipment. However, they can also be directed toward measures that help support the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students as they were affected by the pandemic. In addition, federal guidelines state that funds may be used for “any activity authorized by the ESEA of 1965” and other federal education laws, which allows them to be used for purposes authorized under any well-rounded education program. 

What does this mean for K-12 Dance Educators?

If you teach in a school district that receives Title 1 funds, you may be eligible to receive ESSER funding for your dance program. Local education agencies must use at least 20% of ESSER III funds to address student learning loss that occurred as a result of the pandemic. These include evidence-based interventions that respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. Because research indicates that dance education supports the social and emotional well-being of students, dance-related activities may be eligible for funding through ESSER III.

If your school district receives an allocation of these funds, you can submit a request for funding for your program. Seek the assistance of your district’s Federal Programs Manager or the person in charge of building your school district’s ESSER funding request. To make your funding ask, consider the needs that your dance program has, particularly due to the pandemic. Make a list of supplies, equipment, or support that you need, and be prepared to provide evidence to support their use in your program.

Some potential uses of the funding that may be applicable to dance education include:

  • For supporting health and safety in the dance studio or classroom:

    • Purchasing masks and other forms of personal protective equipment

    • Purchasing supplies to sanitize props, equipment, or studio surfaces

    • Training for dance educators on strategies to conduct in-person dance instruction safely.

    • HEPA filters for the dance classroom and studio spaces to increase the amount of clean air  and the number of air changes per hour (ACH).

    • Purchasing materials to set up the dance classroom with physical distance between students such as  masking tape or outdoor tents and/or purchasing equipment, such as a media cart, to make the dance classroom mobile. 

    • Purchasing devices for internet connectivity, laptops, and/or supplemental software that would  allow for instruction and assessment through virtual means.

  • For supporting students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs:

    • Providing afterschool and summer learning programs to accelerate dance learning and make up for missed learning opportunities.

    • Paying for additional instruction, such as through an adjunct teacher, private lessons instructor,  or full-time teacher, to support students who have experienced loss of learning in dance due to the pandemic.

    • Paying for dance educators where enrollment numbers have dropped due to COVID-19, so that programs can continue to offer instruction even under low enrollment. 

    • Providing resources or instruction that supports students’ social and emotional learning. For more information on social and emotional learning, visit this link

How can I learn more?

Learn more about how ESSER funds can be used to support dance education while mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in NDEO’s ESSER Funding Toolkit for K12 Dance Programs. Your State Arts Action Network representatives may also be a good source for information on ESSER in your state. You can also email with your questions. We will provide additional resources related to ESSER Funding as they become available, including examples of successful dance education asks.

Do you have experience applying for and/or receiving ESSER Funding for your dance program? Share in the comments below or email your story to

Learn more about how you can support dance in PreK-12 schools through the Arts Are Education Campaign.

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