Accessing ESSA Funding to Support SEL Initiatives at Your School

The education policy landscape has changed greatly over the past few years, and it can sometimes be difficult to know where to turn for funding. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) doesn’t explicitly mention social and emotional learning (SEL), which makes it difficult to understand the applicability of various areas and make SEL funding decisions with certainty.

A recent report helps parse through funding sources available through ESSA for schools looking to implement evidence-based SEL programs. According to the research, conducted by the RAND Corporation, the SEL programs could focus on school climate, professional development, peer interactions, and other areas that provide social and emotional growth for low income students.

One note: though the phrase “social and emotional learning” doesn’t actually appear throughout the text, ESSA provides flexibility for schools and districts with regard to the use of federal funds. The report notes that educators in elementary schools and urban communities have the most options for funding for SEL programs under ESSA.

Here are some funding sources from ESSA that can support SEL programs:

  • Title I:  Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged.Title I is the largest section of federal funding for public schools, with $15-$16 billion available annually. This funding source can help incorporate SEL through schoolwide assistance programs, targeted assistance programs, and school support and involvement activities. Schools that have large populations of low-income students can select interventions that target the social and emotional well-being of students.
  • Title II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, or Other School Leaders. Looking to support the retention of teachers and boost their professional development? Use funding from Title II to train teachers in delivering SEL and support their own emotional well-being as well! Options for SEL funding include using Part A: Supporting Effective Instruction funds to support educators by building capacity to provide instruction that promotes SEL competencies of students. Other options include Supporting Effective Educator Development and School Leader Recruitment and Support grants to provide SEL-related PD.
  • Title IV: 21st Century Schools. Title IV provides the funding stream most directly relevant for SEL. Title IV funding can be applied to programs that support safe and healthy students and a well-rounded education. Look specifically to the following areas to support SEL in students: (1) Part A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, (2) Part B: 21st-Century Community Learning Centers, and (3) Part F: National Activities.

Mawi Learning’s social and emotional solutions move the metrics that matter for educators and students alike. To learn more about the solutions we have for elementary, middle, and high school students as well as professional development, check out our courses.


Whitney Peterson

Communications Specialist Whitney is the Communications Specialist for Mawi Learning. When she's not writing or developing marketing materials, Whitney can be found out in nature, or indoors reading and spoiling her cat Lucy.