Addressing Teacher and Staff Shortages with ESSER and ARP Funds

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2021 and updated January 2022

As states continue navigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government allocated the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Programs (ESSER) and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to local education agencies to respond to emergent needs in schools and communities. The following information can serve as a guide for districts, community schools and stakeholders as they make local decisions regarding how to direct ESSR and ARP funds to address teacher and staff shortages.


Impact on Educators

The pandemic created additional barriers that exacerbated the shortage of recruiting and hiring qualified credentialed educators. According to a recent Ed Week Research Center survey, one in four district leaders and principals are reporting severe staffing shortages; and according to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, 68 percent of principals surveyed are concerned about teacher shortages and report it has been more difficult to hire qualified teachers since COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Education supports local education agencies’ use of ESSER and ARP funds to plan or support existing programs and initiatives that address teacher and staff shortages.


Identifying the Needs and Building the Plan

Local education agencies are required to submit plans for the use of ESSER ARP funds to the Ohio Department of Education. A first step in the planning process is to identify needs using the One Needs Assessment. Districts can then build a plan with a broad range of stakeholders as part of the ED STEPS process.

As part of the planning process, local education agencies are encouraged to analyze local data that can help gaps in current or future recruitment and hiring of credentialed and certified staff. Much of this data has already been collected and analyzed by human resource managers, superintendents, school treasurers, Education Management Information System coordinators and others.

The ESSER and ARP funds may be used to coordinate the collection of these data in one global report and to then reanalyze the data considering changes brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic. Local education agencies are encouraged to reexamine their data through a new lens that may include changes in districts’ student projected in-migration or out-migration, or other factors unique or new to the district that impact past projections for the recruitment and hiring of credentialed and certified staff.

General Funding Considerations and Practical Advice

The ESSER and ARP federal funds are one-time investments that should be managed carefully. These funds generally should not be used to provide on-going services, as such service may have to be abruptly terminated when federal funds expire. Rather, the funds should be used for one-time or short-duration intensive supports that address the education disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic or that otherwise build the capacity of the system to operate effectively or meaningfully for students. More information on using ESSER and ARP funds may be found in the comprehensive ESSER ARP guidance created by the Ohio Department of Education.

In general, when determining strategies for spending the ESSER and ARP funds, local education agencies should consider the following five questions:
  1. Will the proposed use of funds “prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19?”
  2. Is the proposed use of funds an allowable use of funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Resources and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act and/or the American Rescue Plan (ARP)? A list of ESSER ARP allowable activities is on the Department’s website.
  3. Is the proposed use of funds reasonable and necessary?
  4. Does the proposed use of funds promote equity?
  5. Does the proposed use of funds support returning students to the classroom?


Strategies for Hiring and Retaining Effective Educators

  • Enhance Recruitment Practices
    • Conduct stay interviews to define and use the district’s brand to attract high-quality educators.
    • Expand partnerships to identify diverse sources of potential candidates.  
  • Increase Teacher and Staff Compensation
    • Increase wages by offering hiring and retention bonuses.
    • Develop a total compensation system to increase employee satisfaction, improve retention and strengthen recruitment efforts.
  • Improve Working Conditions
    • Review the four-year resident educator program and develop the processes, procedures and policies to transition to the new two-year resident educator program by fall of 2023.
    • Develop a local new principal support program for new principals and assistant principals in the district.
    • Provide high-quality professional development opportunities for educators to gain new knowledge and skills to improve student learning.
    • Conduct exit surveys to understand exit patterns and reasons for attrition to improve retention within the district. 
  • Support the Educator Pipeline
    • Develop or expand local Educators Rising Programs for middle and high school students interested in education-related careers.
    • Develop a local district wide “grow your own" program that supports paraprofessionals and classified staff in the district who seek to become fully licensed teachers. 
    • Develop and offer start-up support for a local teacher residency program for teacher candidates currently enrolled in college teacher education programs.
Special Note: Local education agencies should expect significant oversight by state and federal auditors on the spending of their ARP and ESSER federal funds. Local education agencies should have a written explanation of how the expenditure using these ARP and ESSER funds was made to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19. It is important that local education agencies maintain documentation and be able to provide evidence that demonstrates compliance with the allowable uses of these federal resources.
For more information or questions, please contact Yenetta Harper:

Return to Back to School: Resources for Return

Last Modified: 5/1/2022 3:35:36 PM