Better Together Cubed

Funding Options for SEL


Your Return on Investment

Darrail Hughes, Behavior Intervention Specialist, speaks to how investing in SEL changes the trajectory of lives beyond school walls.

The first ESSER Fund, ESSER I, was established in 2020 by the U.S. Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, making grants available to state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs).

Subsequent legislation enacted in 2021 made additional funding available through the ESSER II and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) ESSER fund. (For more information on ESSER, see Department of Education, n.d.-a)

The ESSER fund is a federal program administered by the Department of Education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides time-limited emergency financial assistance to US school districts.

School districts may apply for ESSER funding through their state educational agency (SEA). More information about the specifics of this funding is available on the US Department of Education website.

Absolutely! ESSER funds are designed to be used to support students’ academic, social, and emotional needs in response to learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding covers research- and evidence-based programs that support the implementation of MTSS and Tier 1 social-emotional learning. Funds can be used for multi year program subscriptions that can extend up to four years after the funds are dispersed. Check with your state or district for local rules.

ESEA provides funding for elementary and secondary education, including professional development, instructional materials, and other resources and initiatives. Its purpose is to support academic achievement for all students, including those in low-income and underserved schools. The most recent reauthorization is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was first implemented in 2017. It dictates which education programs the federal government funds, and distributes them to the states on an annual basis. The states then allocate the funds to the districts and other education entities. Currently, ESSA offers twelve state formula-allocated grant programs and twenty-one competitive grant programs. Formula programs are based on certain criteria for recipient students, and their funds are allocated based on the number of students meeting those requirements.


We can support you in figuring out the best way to budget or find funding so that your school community can begin their journey of connection, belonging, and wellness together.

bettertogether3 professional development and programming can be used to make purchases in these ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) programs.

Title I funds are designed to help in closing the achievement gap between students and increase achievement in academic subjects. While social-emotional learning is not an explicit focus of the Title I program, research has shown that SEL competencies contribute to higher achievement. Using Title I funds for professional development is admissible if these costs are shown to help improve student achievement for the specific students served by the program. SEL informed academic programs, such as culturally competent teaching and learning in the content areas, are allowable uses of these funds. bettertogether3 programming is designed to be integrated into academic content areas and current school structures.

The following activities may be supported by an adoption of BetterTogether3 as stated in The Schoolwide Programs section of Title I guidance notes.

  • Strategies to improve students’ skills outside the academic subject areas, including school-based mental health programs, specialized instructional support services, and mentoring services
  • Implementation of a schoolwide tiered model to address and prevent problem behavior and early intervention services, to be coordinated with similar activities and services carried out under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The purpose of Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants is to improve students’ academic achievement by increasing the capacity of states, LEAs, schools, and local communities to:

  • Provide all students with access to a well-rounded education
  • Improve school conditions for student learning
  • Improve the use of technology in order to raise the academic achievement and increase digital literacy of all students

An LEA may use Title IV, Part A funds for activities associated with social-emotional learning and mental health, including interventions that build resilience, self-control, empathy, persistence, and other social and behavioral skills. LEAs can also use funds to implement school wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS).  bettertogether3 provides lessons aligned to the PBIS Framework.

bt3 professional development may be purchased for initiatives including:

  • Programs that prepare teachers to prevent bullying and harassment
  • Supplementing locally tailored plan to reduce exclusionary discipline practices

21st CCLC supports centers that provide academic enrichment programs during non-school hours, especially those that target high-poverty families and students who attend low-performing schools.

Programs implemented by 21st CCLC grantees are diverse and may include preparing teachers to use specific approaches for cultivating literacy skills, social and emotional learning, or methods of teaching technology skills.

The  21st CCLC supports bettertogether3 professional development may be purchased in support of:

  • Fostering a safe and healthy supportive environment
  •  Reinforcing and complementing  the regular academic program of participating students, including SEL
  • Providing SEL support to students who have been truant, suspended, or expelled in an effort to allow the students to improve their academic achievement


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. 2020. “An Initial Guide to Leveraging the Power of Social and Emotional Learning as You Prepare to Reopen and Renew Your School Community.” CASEL.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. 2021. “CSI Resources: Professional Learning.” CASEL.

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