Back to School: A Deep Dive into How Boston Public Schools is Using ESSER Funds to Support ESL Students

Back to School: A Deep Dive into How Boston Public Schools is Using ESSER Funds to Support ESL Students

The 2022-23 school year has officially begun. As students and teachers embark on the nine-month journey of homework, studying, and tests, school districts across the Commonwealth are currently in the process of investing historic education funds received from the federal government.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), first authorized in 2020, pledged to send $190 billion to schools nationwide. Of that sum, more than $2.5 billion is coming to Massachusetts, with $431 million allocated for Boston Public Schools (BPS). The primary purpose of these historic funds is to support pandemic recovery, student learning outcomes, and school improvements.

While school districts like BPS have already received the first allotments of ESSER funds, there is still some confusion amongst parents about the distribution of these monies to areas in need of significant improvement. One of the areas that matters most to Boston’s immigrant population is the bolstering of English learner programs that benefit students for whom English is a second language (ESL).

The BPS website indicates that approximately 17,000 students, 32% of all BPS students, are currently participating in ESL programs. These ESL programs are expansive and critical to closing the achievement gap for ESL students. However, the last two years have been far from normal, and the repercussions for English Learners have been tremendous. According to a study published by the Migration Policy Institute at the beginning of the pandemic, English Learners have experienced reduced access to opportunities to support their English language development, academic success, and socio-emotional well-being.

In early June, BPS released a detailed, three-year plan for the distribution of ESSER funds to schools in the district. Here are a few vital takeaways from the plan for families with ESL students:

  • $50 million is allocated for BPS schools, the amount secured by each school is determined by per pupil calculations. Importantly,schools that have pupils with greater need or barriers to learning will receive more money, with BPS considering if a student has special needs, is learning English as a second language, is designated as low-income, or exhibits two or more of these conditions.
  • $17+ million is being invested in improving learning outcomes for ESL students that also have disabilities by focusing on recouping learning loss stemming from the pandemic and establishing inclusive learning environments.
  • $19 million for the improvement of core instruction will benefit ESL learners by bolstering native language programming, focusing on students achieving the “Seal of Biliteracy,” cultivating bilingual educators, and more.

As a leader in providing bilingual education to preschool-age students and as firm believers in the socioemotional and cognitive benefits of early multicultural, bilingual learning, we applaud Mayor Wu’s administration and BPS for investing in the success of ESL programs. It is paramount that Mayor Wu’s Administration continue to pay close attention to how ESSER funds are invested in ESL students, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We applaud the Administration’s efforts to improve learning outcomes for ESL students and encourage the Administration to adhere closely to its plans to fund resources that are helping guide ESL students on their educational journey.