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How the Utah State Board of Education Delivered $12 million in Federal COVID Funding to Teachers in 2 Weeks


By putting purchasing power directly into teachers’ hands, state departments of education can efficiently disperse funding to support the precise needs of their public school teachers and students.

The Challenge: Enable Utah teachers to select the COVID-relief resources that would most support their students’ learning

During the pandemic, state departments of education had to quickly decide how they would allocate COVID relief funding, like ESSER and GEER, to help teachers support their students recovering from learning loss caused by the pandemic. Utah, like many other states, wanted to allocate that funding in a way that would meaningfully support student outcomes — and when every student had a different COVID experience, a one-size-fits-all solution wouldn’t cut it.

With the variety of student needs, the Utah State Board of Education intrinsically knew they wanted to give local control to teachers by allowing them to select resources that would make the biggest impact in their classroom. As they started conceptualizing how to build such a system, the logistical concerns and questions began stacking up.

  • How would they receive and review teachers’ applications? 
  • How quickly would DOE staff be able to review teachers’ projects, recognizing that many projects were timely and related to a particular unit or activity?
  • Who would collect and review price quotes and receipts? 
  • What would happen if teachers needed to return an item?
  • Who would teachers call or email with questions? 
  • How fast would DOE staff be able to respond to hundreds or thousands of emails?

The State Board of Education realized they either needed to make a massive investment of both time and money, or find a partner that already had the ability to receive and fulfill teacher requests at a grand scale.

The Solution: A Turnkey Teacher Support Campaign through DonorsChoose 

DonorsChoose is a nonprofit that gives public school teachers the ability to request resources that will help their students learn. Since our founding in 2000, 5.6 million donors have contributed $1.4 billion, bringing more than 2.5 million resource requests to life.

Sydnee Dickson, the Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction, learned about DonorsChoose through our Teachers Support Campaign with Nevada, where we distributed $8 million in ESSER funding to Nevada teachers over 10 weeks. Our team worked closely with Utah State Board of Education leaders to launch a similar campaign for Utah teachers, while meeting the Board of Ed’s specific requirements for what teachers could request, as well as the Board's federal reporting needs.

The Utah Teacher Support Campaign launched as students returned to school in January 2022. Using the messaging and communications support provided by our team, the Board let teachers across the state know they had the opportunity to receive funding for one DonorsChoose project, up to $1,000 per teacher.

The Results: Record-Breaking Deployment Speed and Public Praise

Immediately after the campaign was launched, Utah teachers flocked to DonorsChoose, writing detailed descriptions of how the resources they requested would benefit their students’ learning and pandemic recovery. Once projects were vetted and approved by the DonorsChoose team, funding was instantly applied, and requested resources began arriving into teachers’ classrooms in as little as two days.

Within just two weeks, the entire $12 million grant was distributed to 13,355 public school educators — half of all Utah public school teachers. 

The campaign also garnered the Utah State Board of Education positive local press surrounding their support of teacher-selected resources, while teachers shouted out their gratitude across social media.

Interested in partnering with DonorsChoose for a statewide teacher support campaign? Learn more and reach out to us.

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