How Braiding Funds can Maximize K-12 Funding


ESSER is going away. The ongoing need for high-quality curriculum is not.

If your teachers spend hours a day cobbling together resources from the internet to desperately try to engage students struggling to reach grade-level proficiency, it’s time to invest in high-quality instructional materials that are proven effective. But what if there isn’t enough ESSER money left to fund all the curriculum adoption components fully?

Savvy district administrators know they can coordinate one-time funds with long-term funds to ensure uninterrupted access in the future and take advantage of the savings of a multi-year contract.

This strategy is called “braiding funds”, when two or more funds are spent to accomplish a unified purpose, but are still tracked separately to follow their unique procurement requirements.

The “braid” of funds used can vary by district, but the example below models how multiple funding sources can be woven together to achieve a unified goal. This cohesive approach coordinates and focuses the efforts of multiple district departments to create a larger impact. It avoids duplication of effort by working in concert.


So where does a Curriculum Director begin to determine what funds are available to braid? Here are four important questions to discuss:

  1. What are we trying to fund and when do purchases need to be made, given our desired implementation timeline?

No matter what the project is, try to segment out all the different components. What exactly is needed for the project to successfully achieve your goal? For example, a large instructional materials implementation can be broken into smaller purchases:

  • Textbooks and digital core content
  • Personalized intervention
  • Professional learning in the instructional materials, initial launch plus annual follow-up
  • Professional learning in sheltered instruction observation protocol for ELs, provided annually for new teachers
  • Consumables, such as workbooks, hands-on STEM kits, or classroom libraries
  1. Which groups of students/teachers will be impacted?

K12 funding is often tied to specific desired outcomes and students to be served. Identifying who will be served and what outcomes will be accomplished can reveal what funding source(s) are a match.

Clarify what content area(s) is involved. What grade levels will be served? Are there certain student subgroups impacted, even if it’s just for one project component? Be specific.

  1. What existing funds align to the anticipated outcomes and students to be served?

Your district has multiple, existing funding streams that are intended to improve academic achievement. But often these decision-makers reside in separate silos.

This is where you shine the Dollar-Sign-Shaped-Bat-Signal into the night sky, calling for help from your district budget administrators. You need someone who fluently speaks Supplement-Not-Supplant, OMB Guidance, Resource Allocation Review, and Fiscal Compliance.

Now that you’ve clarified exactly what components need funding, what the anticipated outcomes will be and who will be served, it’s time to play the matching game with the district budget administrators. Include federal, state, and local sources in this program review.

Example of common federal funds:

  • Title I: intervention
  • 1003a: school improvement
  • Title II: professional development
  • Title III: support for English Learners
  • Title IV: well-rounded education, technology, and safe/healthy students
  • IDEA: students with disabilities and RTI
  • 21st Century grants: out-of-school programs

In addition, your district is likely managing a number of other budget programs like state trust land grants, technology bonds, community grants, niche grants from the state, grants in partnership with local colleges, etc. So the goal is to match components of the project with applicable funding sources.

  1. What restrictions need to be navigated for each funding source?

Your district budget administrators will be invaluable in this next step too. Braiding funds means each fund retains its unique identity; it’s not mixed up in a blender. In other words, it matters what you buy from which account.

Each K12 funding program has unique restrictions, procurement and reporting requirements, and important deadlines. For example, Title II can fund teacher professional development, but not student instructional materials. Some funds can cover a single academic year, while others are multi-year programs.

But fortunately for you—your district budget administrators are seasoned professionals. They’ll be able to thread the needle of following procurement requirements while achieving maximum impact through coordinated funds.


About the Author

Grace Stopani

Director Funding Intelligence