Funding After ESSER: Resources to Fund Conscious Discipline Implementation

Byline: Jenny Shannon


Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds were established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These funds were meant to provide support to school districts for immediate needs perpetuated by the pandemic. Aside from academic learning loss and operational needs for distance learning, one of the most common uses for ESSER funds was to support social and emotional learning (SEL). Many districts used ESSER funds to hire additional mental health professionals and staff such as counselors, social workers, and psychologists, and to implement SEL programs, such as Conscious Discipline. 

Though we are still navigating a post-pandemic world, states and districts must commit their last ESSER allocation by Sept. 30 of this year. Spending, however, can continue to Jan. 28, 2025, or beyond. This has left many districts to wonder how they will continue to support the successful social emotional learning initiatives begun over the last few years.  

Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways school districts can secure the funds they need to invest in the social and emotional learning necessary for optimal student growth and staff wellness.  


National and Federal Funding for Social and Emotional Learning, and Conscious Discipline  

The pandemic shone a spotlight on a truth that existed long before the Covid era: Students require ample support to learn how to regulate their emotions, and this regulation is essential to academic, social, and life success. Fortunately, ESSER’s end doesn’t mean schools will lack funding for essential SEL support programs. Below are resources for those looking for replacements for ESSER funding to ensure their school can continue the uninterrupted Conscious Discipline implementation their staff and students deserve.  

  1. Title 1 Funding 

Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides funding to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high percentages of children from low-income families. Contrary to a widely held belief, Title 1 is not limited to academic and instructional costs. The funds can legally be allocated to support SEL initiatives such as hiring additional staff, implementing SEL programs, and providing professional development for teachers on SEL practices. 


  1. Title 11, Part A Funding

Title 11, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides funds for improvement of teacher and administrator quality. This can be extended to include training and professional development concerning SEL practices. 


3.Title IV, Part A Funds 

Title IV, Part A of the ESEA, also known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant, provides flexible funding to improve students’ academic achievement. This extends to: 

  • Salaries of personnel to carry out identified programs and services. 
  • Supplemental educational resources and equipment. 
  • Direct services for students. 
  • Equitable services for eligible private school students and teachers. ( 


  1. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Funds


IDEA funds originated from the need to support students with disabilities. Data and research show that SEL programs such as Conscious Discipline can be a critical component of supporting the social and emotional development of both neurotypical and neurodivergent students. If written to demonstrate how programs like Conscious Discipline are specifically designed to include and meet the unique needs of students with disabilities, districts can use IDEA funds for SEL implementation. 



Local Funding for Social and Emotional Learning, and Conscious Discipline  

Funding for SEL programs doesn’t only exist on a federal level. State and local organizations also provide unique offerings for implementing SEL programs, practices, and purposes. The resources listed below are opportunities that may provide funding for Conscious Discipline implementation within your own state. 

New Jersey 

NJ Inclusion Program-Continuation-Year 2 of 3:  

This grant is competitive and available to all New Jersey public or private agencies to increase positive outcomes for students with disabilities, ages 5-21. Only 1 grant will be awarded, for 1,000,000.00. The deadline to apply is June 6th . Local education agencies (LEAs) including Educational Service Commissions and Jointure Commissions are not eligible. ( 


It is possible due to Conscious Discipline’s strong connection with literacy improvement, SEL funding could be accessed via Minnesota’s READ Act. Prairie Care Fund is also an option for grants that support mental health in school districts.  


As of May 8th, 2024, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that the California State Board of Education (SBE) approved $1.3 billion in community schools implementation grants as proposed by the California Department of Education (CDE). The CDE plans to administer a final round of implementation grants during the 2024–25 school year. You can read more information here. 


The Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) is the primary state funding support for school districts, and the major portion of state support is distributed through the FEFP. The FEFP has increased its funding for the district Mental Health Assistance (MHAA) program year-over-year, making it possible a program such as Conscious Discipline may be approved for financial support.  


Access information about SEL funding and allocation in the state of Virginia here.  


Access information about SEL funding and allocation in the state of Indiana here. 


Access information about SEL funding and allocation in the state of Ohio here and here.  

New York- 

Access information about SEL funding and allocation in the state of New York here and here. 


Access information about SEL funding and allocation in the state of Texas here.  


Prioritizing SEL Practices for Healthy Student Outcomes 

We know that to close academic gaps and increase student achievement, we must tend to their wellbeing, mental health, belonging, and sustainable connections first. A positive and healthy school culture is the only environment in which students can learn and thrive. The end of ESSER does not necessitate the end of SEL programs and practices. If leveraged strategically, districts can continue to access the federal and state funding required to support Conscious Discipline implementation for years to come.  


Other Resources:  

Implementation Support Page 

Elevate Conference 

First Steps: Implementation Tips from the Field 

Indiana Council: How Title 1 Funds Can Be Used for SEL  

How Does My School Pay for SEL? 

Lenny Learning Grant 

New Jersey Grant Opportunities 

The Title I Program Is About to Become Even More Important. Here’s What Vendors Need to Know