TDOE Announces State Spending Strategy for Nearly $4.2 Billion in Historic Federal Stimulus Funding for K-12 Education

Wednesday, May 19, 2021 | 10:27am


State Approach Prioritizes Strategic Investments for All Students

Nashville, TN— Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced the spending strategy for the state’s portion of the federal COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus funding, totaling almost $4.2 billion statewide, to benefit K-12 students and schools in Tennessee. 

Over the course of the last year, the U.S. Congress responded to the global COVID-19 health pandemic by passing several pieces of legislation to send an historic influx of federal funding to states. Between four major sources of federal relief and stimulus funding, Tennessee will benefit from almost $4.2 billion for K-12 education specifically, to be spent between spring 2020 and fall 2024.

“This historic amount of federal funding provides an opportunity to innovate and transform the trajectory of Tennessee schools and students,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “It’s imperative that we keep student achievement at the center of all decision-making to put them on a path for success in our classrooms, postsecondary and workforce.”

“Tennessee will be making deep, strategic investments to provide the most-needed supports for our children, and I am firmly committed to ensuring this funding can be maximized for their benefit,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “This amount of funding is historic, and after significant community feedback, the investments the department has made and will continue to make are reflective of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do the life-changing work that will set all students on a path to success.” 

Through strategic investments, the department has and will develop additional grant opportunities and free resources to benefit districts, schools, teachers, students and families. Planned investments include the following:

  • ACADEMICS: All Tennessee students will have access to a high-quality education by learning to read and reading to learn with high-quality materials. 
  • STUDENT READINESS: Tennessee schools will be equipped to serve the academic and non-academic needs of all students by developing robust career pathway opportunities and connecting students to real-time support. 
  • EDUCATORS: Tennessee will set a new path for the education profession by becoming a teacher for free. 
    •  $21M in programs to support the educator pipeline, including the department’s Grow Your Own program

District leaders and elected officials have commented on this historic amount of funding coming to Tennessee for K-12 education to support students.

“We are focused on investments designed to prioritize accelerating academic achievement and increasing student growth,” said Steve Starnes, Director of Schools, Greeneville City Schools. “We know it is both an opportunity and responsibility for our district to thoughtfully invest in our students' education, outcomes, and futures - and we remain committed to doing so."  

“These historic funds will better equip the state to invest in students,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey. “By using evidence-based practices to improve student outcomes, the funds will ensure Tennessee continues our commitment to provide innovative education programs. I am glad these funds will be made available to our public schools and look forward to the increased learning opportunities for our students that will result from this large investment.”

"The dollars coming into the state to benefit education are incredible and represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our district to achieve results that are focused on improving the quality of education for our children,” said Millard L. House II, Director of Schools, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. “By using this money wisely, strategically and transparently, we can improve student readiness for higher education and future careers." 

“Every student deserves a top-notch, high-quality education and we remain committed to ensuring they receive one no matter where they live in Tennessee,” said House Education Instruction Subcommittee Chairman Scott Cepicky. “These one-time funds will go a long way in helping us close the digital divide, but also equip our school districts with extra resources to get our students back on track. We look forward to seeing the results of this investment as we work to lead the nation in education.”

"In Lauderdale County Schools, we recognize this moment in time for the state of Tennessee and our district presented by this historic federal funding for K-12 education,” said Shawn Kimble, Director of Schools, Lauderdale County Schools. “By maximizing these resources to accelerate learning for all students, we will continue innovative strategies to have the greatest impact for our students and communities.”

“Education must be Priority One for every School District in Tennessee. We owe each student the commitment of a quality education for a bright future,” said House Education Administration Committee Chairman Mark White. “This historic one-time funding will benefit each and every child and we are committed to using the funding wisely and for every student in Tennessee.”

"Our goal is to be innovative with our approach to using these funds to focus, first and foremost, on student success,” said Dr. Joey Vaughn, Director of Schools, Manchester City Schools. “This opportunity to move education forward is historic given this level of funding. We must ensure it is used responsibly to benefit our students and advance education outcomes in Manchester City Schools and the state.”

The almost $4.2 billion in funding for K-12 is comprised of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, Governor’s Education Emergency Relief (GEER) funding, Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS) funding, and the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the first federal stimulus bill, the CARES Act, which included ESSER 1.0. Tennessee was allocated $260 million from this initial round of funding. On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the stimulus bill passed by Congress on December 21, 2020 (referred to as ESSER 2.0.) Tennessee received approximately $1.1 billion in ESSER 2.0 funding. On Thursday, March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law, which provided Tennessee with an additional nearly $2.5 billion in federal relief funding (ESSER 3.0) for schools to address learning loss and challenges presented by COVID-19.

To receive ESSER funding, states received allocations based on their share of Title I funding, with 90% of funds allocated to school districts based on each districts’ Title I share and 10% is reserved for state level activities. Districts are required to submit their spending plans as allowable under federal guidance to the department, which are also aligned to the state’s overall federal relief spending strategy. The deadline for district applications for ESSER 1.0 was June 15, 2020 and ESSER 2.0 was March 15, 2021. 

ESSER 3.0 funds emphasize learning loss, in-person learning, and school facility improvements, and the federal government requires 20% of the district’s ESSER 3.0 allocation to be spent to address learning loss. To support districts in planning for ESSER 3.0 funding specifically, the department will post and regularly update this webpage with guidance, templates and resources. 

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact