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North Dakota Offers $1M in Grants for AI, STEM Summer Camps

In an effort to use remaining ESSER funds, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is encouraging K-12 organizations that offer cybersecurity and artificial intelligence instruction to apply for grants.

Young children in a class working on robots.
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction has $1 million available to help cover the costs of summer learning programs on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects for K-12 students.

According to a news release last week, the CyberSavvy Futures Grant program is open to organizations that offer instruction and activities between the months of May and September including public school districts, tribal schools, colleges, city or county government agencies, and “groups with experience in offering programs for K-12 students.”

In a public statement, North Dakota State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said grants can be used to start new programs or maintain existing ones, with preference going to those that can demonstrate their ability to continue beyond just this summer.

Grant applications are due May 1, and the money must be spent by the end of September. This program is funded by remaining federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, according to the news release.

The application form on the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction website asks for measurable outcomes, and how program administrators will know if their program is successful. Applicants are also asked to detail how artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other STEM subjects will be integrated into program activities to enhance participants’ knowledge and skills in those areas.

With $1 million to commit by Sept. 30 and liquidate by Jan. 31, 2025 — the deadline for spending ESSER funds — the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction wouldn’t expect to return unspent money to the U.S. Treasury as long as there is strong interest in the CyberSavvy Future Grants program.

According to Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab, which provides ESSER data on all U.S. states and school districts, 44 districts in North Dakota have spent 100 percent of their allocated ESSER funds, and the vast majority of school districts are beyond the 80 percent mark. Only four districts are below 50 percent in spending down their grants.

Nationwide, the Edunomics Lab notes, the spending pace of ESSER funds increased from $0.3 billion per month in the spring of 2020 to $4.9 billion per month at this point in the 2023-2024 academic year. The site noted that as of spring of 2023, 20-30 percent of ESSER funds had been spent on vendor contracts, which include technology upgrades and services, while labor was the largest-funded allocation at just under 50 percent of ESSER money.

As of Feb. 29, 2024, North Dakota statewide had committed or spent 82.6 percent of its remaining ESSER funds, according to the U.S. Department of Education website. As for the largest states in the nation, California was at 78.6 percent, Texas at 83.6 percent, Florida at 78.3 percent, and New York at 69.8 percent. Washington, D.C., lagged the rest of the country at 57.8 percent.