Latest ESSER Surveys Ask Stakeholders To Rank How Important Mental Health Services Are In Schools

Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Education

The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

The latest round of ESSER surveys ask parents and community stakeholders to rank how important mental health services are in schools.

Each Tennessee school district has its own survey for the community to weigh in on and the dates for which they must be completed is fast approaching. Every LEA in the state is required to update the “Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan” at least every six months through September 30th, 2023 seeking public input on the plan and taking such input into account.

Public schools in Tennessee will receive over $4.5 billion in federal money by fall of 2023. According to sources, Tennessee is heavily investing American Rescue Plan ESSER funds in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs under the guise of students’ mental health.


In order to be approved for ESSER funds, every state had to make a plan to show how its LEAs would implement COVID-19 prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the CDC. These mitigation strategies included universal and correct wearing of masks, physical distancing, handwashing, cleaning, contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, as well as providing vaccines to staff and students.

In a white paper published by TN Liberty Network, the independent think tank reports that when the American Rescue Plan Act was signed by President Joe Biden last March, another $122 billion in ESSER III funds were allocated to K-12 schools. This money came with strings attached unlike the first and second rounds of ESSER funding.

In Tennessee’s plan, the state Department of Education “recognizes that the safe return to in-person instruction must be accompanied by a focus on meeting students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs…”

Williamson County has spent $720,000 on mental health services, nearly 9% of total ESSER funds allocated to their LEA. The school district’s plan was to contract with an outside vendor to provide four clinical social workers for students. Williamson County Schools states on its website that their first priority in preparing students for the future is “to expand support services… including social, emotional, physical, and mental health needs.”

Shelby County earmarked just over 4% of ESSER funds for mental health services, over $32 million, part of which will be used for universal mental health screening of students.


All of the state’s district plans can be found here. By selecting your county or school district, you can see how much has been spent and how funds have been allocated, what health and safety plans have been put in place, and also what percentage of the community engaged with the last survey.

Metro Nashville Public Schools current survey asks stakeholders to rank from 1 to 4, with 1 being most important and 4 being least important the following priorities for ESSER III funds:

  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Educator and Staff Support
  • Building of Infrastructure (technology, facilities, health services)
  • Accelerating Academics

Most school districts have sent emails to parents to elicit survey responses, but all community stakeholders may fill out the current survey. Visit your county schools website and search for “ESSER” in order to participate.

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at

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