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Music Education Funding

Accessing State and Federal Funding to Support Music Education via ESSER and California Proposition 28.

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Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funding

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding is the portion of funding from three COVID-19 relief funding laws designated to help address educational issues arising from the pandemic.

There were three Coronavirus relief bills passed by the U.S. Congress that provided significant funding for K-12 education, totaling approximately $190 billion:

ESSER Funding Amounts and Deadlines

Legislation Name Amount Date Passed Deadline to Obligate Funds* Deadline to Liquidate Funds*
Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act (ESSER I Fund) $13.2 billion March 2020 September 30, 2022 January 28, 2023
Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act (ESSER II Fund) $54.3 billion December 2020 September 30, 2023 January 28, 2024
American Rescue Plan (ESSER III Fund) $122 billion March 2021 September 30, 2024 January 28, 2025

*To obligate funds means to commit to spend these funds. It doesn't mean the funds must actually be spent.

*To liquidate funds means to actually spend these funds. What was committed to be spent must actually be spent by this deadline.

ESSER funds are one-time funds, which means that after September 30, 2024, they will not be replaced or provided annually like Title I funds.

States and districts must commit their last ESSER allocation by September 30, 2024. The September 30 deadline means a state or district may not enter into new contracts using ESSER money after that date.

All committed funds must be spent by January 28, 2024. If the funds aren’t spent by the liquidation deadlines, they revert to the federal government.

States may submit a request for a spending extension from the U.S. Department of Education. Extensions are not automatic. School systems with approved extensions will have until March 28, 2026 to spend their money, as long as it has been committed by September 30, 2024.

The Department of Education has a template for liquidation extension requests

You can also view this liquidation extension request FAQ from the Department of Education

First, start by gathering your list of needed items. Then, figure out who the purchasing agent is in your school district. These funds need to be spent quickly and districts are figuring out how much ESSER dollars they have remaining, so time is of the essence! No school district wants to leave money on the table.

Recommended items that can be purchased quickly:

  • Technology tools and resources
  • Projectors
  • Microphones
  • Sound systems
  • iPads for learning
  • Musical instruments
  • Classroom supplies
  • Individual instruments for each student to eliminate sharing
  • Individual mouthpieces for each student to eliminate sharing
  • Support for (low-income) students
  • Instruments for every child
  • Instruments supplies such as reeds, rosin, valve oil, slide grease
  • Music appropriate cleaning and sanitizing materials
  • Sonic instrument cleaning of all instruments
  • Mouthpiece Cleaner

Recommendations for Acceptable Arts Uses of ESSER III Funding

With districts moving swiftly (perhaps even frenetically) to allocate funds, it's essential for music educators to present their specific wish list in a clear, itemized, and easily accessible manner.

Ensure familiarity with the school district’s spending policies and thresholds. If this information is elusive, reaching out to the school bookkeeper or checking the district’s finance and procurement website should be your first step.

For expenditures exceeding a certain threshold (usually $5,000), school finance offices typically mandate multiple quotes from different vendors. Therefore, it's crucial to gather these quotes for the exact items you intend to purchase. Additionally, determine whether your school district already has master agreements or contracts with music vendors, or inquire directly with the vendors. This can streamline the approval process by leveraging existing arrangements with the procurement office.

Consider the following points when presenting your case to decision-makers:

  • Provide justifications outlining the necessity of the instruments; emphasize student needs.
  • Align your rationale with the district's strategic plan.
  • Factor in long-term considerations such as the lifespan of instruments or their impact on student participation.
  • Articulate how the funds will be utilized to persuade decision-makers. Reference NAfME’s Opportunity to Learn Standards, which outline the necessary resources for teachers, schools, and districts to meet the 2014 Music Standards.
  • Clearly prioritize and label your needs on the document.
  • Itemize expenses and ensure alignment with the appropriate categories. Include all relevant pricing information.
  • Submit your documents, impact report, and cover letter to your district and administration, maintaining brevity while conveying essential information.

Recommendations for Acceptable Arts Uses of ESSER III Funding

In your school district, the purchasing agent may be a principal, superintendent, or financial officer. While teachers should initially engage with their principals, the primary purchasing authority typically resides within the district finance office or superintendent's office.

Principals may possess spending authority for certain funds or assist in submitting requests for music-related purchases at the district level. Alternatively, procurement may be centralized and managed by the district’s business or procurement offices. If your district has a music or arts coordinator, they can offer valuable assistance in navigating this process. Ultimately, all decisions are made locally within your school system.

California Proposition 28

On November 8, 2022, California voters approved Proposition 28: The Arts and Music in Schools (AMS) Funding Guarantee and Accountability Act. The measure required the state to establish a new, ongoing program supporting arts instruction in schools beginning in 2023–24. Prop. 28 will provide about $1 billion each year in funding to California public schools.

Local educational agencies (LEAs) with 500 or more students are required to ensure that at least 80% of AMS funds to be expended are used to employ certificated or classified employees to provide arts education program instruction, 19% must be used for training, supplies and materials, and arts educational partnership programs, and 1% of funds received to be used for an LEA’s administrative expenses.

The full text of the statute is available here: Chapter 5.1 of Part 6 of Division 1 of Title 1 of the Education Code (Section 8820 et seq.).

"Arts education program" includes (but is not limited to) instruction and training, supplies, materials, and arts educational partnership programs for instruction in dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts including folk art, painting, sculpture, photography, craft arts, creative expression including graphic arts and design, computer coding, animation, music composition, ensembles, script writing, costume design, film, and video.

California Education Code sections 51210 and 51220 recognize dance, music, theatre, and visual arts as courses of study, aimed at the development of aesthetic appreciation and the skills of creative expression.

All funds must be used to provide arts education programs, as described in Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) 11. Education Code (EC) Section 8820(g)(1) requires that local educational agencies (LEAs) with an enrollment of 500 or more pupils ensure that at least 80 percent of expended funds will be used to employ certificated or classified employees to provide arts education program instruction. Up to 20 percent of the expended Arts and Music in Schools (AMS) funds may be used for “training, supplies and materials, and arts educational partnership programs,” which includes outside contractors. The department may, for good cause shown, provide a waiver from this requirement.

Additionally, no more than 1 percent of funds received may be used for a local educational agency's (LEA's) administrative expenses, including indirect costs, to implement this program.

  • Program Questions: Contact the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division by email at
  • Fiscal Questions: Contact the School Fiscal Services Division, Principal Apportionment Section, by email at

California Proposition 28 Resources

Webinar: "State and Federal Funding:
How to Unlock it in Support of Music Education"


Mike Kamphuis
Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Conn Selmer

Anne Fennell
K-12 Music Program Manager, San Diego Unified School District

Scott Burgener
Music Education Department Specialist, Mesa Public Schools

Dr. Annamarie Bollino
Arts Supervisor, Prince William County Public Schools