December 18, 2020

Three ways to budget for social-emotional learning

By Colin Tierney, Co-founder at The Social Institute

For many decision makers, the biggest question about financing social-emotional learning (SEL) isn’t a matter of whether it’s important, but rather how to actually do it. After all, extensive research by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) provides data-driven evidence in support of financing SEL initiatives.

  • For every dollar invested in SEL, there is an $11 return.
  • SEL’s impact is long-term, with positive results extending up to 18 years later.
  • SEL competencies improve economic mobility.

Those are just a few of the benefits. Many factors impact social-emotional learning, with social media and technology among the fastest rising. More than any previous generation, today’s students turn to social networks to build and bolster their social relationships. As schools adjust to this digital reality, it’s clear that educators must decide how to address this fast-moving trend. 

It’s also a trend accelerated by COVID-19, according to research conducted by Education Market Experts. Before the start of the 2020-21 academic year, schools anticipated “increased spending on technology to enable remote learning” more than any other change. Third on that list? “More spending on social-emotional learning.”

Even as school leaders prioritize SEL, some remain stuck on the question of budgeting. Compared to traditional expenses required to manage a school, this form of education sometimes sits across or between budgets. So how do educators advance the important work of social-emotional health?

School-wide budgeting

When allocating budgets, social-emotional health often falls as a line item under several different areas due to its wide-ranging impact. When The Social Institute partners with a school, the students, parents, and educators are all engaged in strengthening the school community.

With these three audiences, budgets can be found in faculty professional development funds, student health and advising funds, and parent organization funds.

Engaging parents

Parents play an essential role in implementing successful social-emotional learning at schools because they reinforce student experiences at home. Schools, whether public or independent, sometimes overlook the importance of implementing initiatives in collaboration with parents.

According to a report published in the Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, parent involvement correlates strongly with a successful education. As outlined in the conclusion, “Parental involvement provides an important opportunity for schools to enrich current school programs by bringing parents into the educational process. Increased parental involvement has been shown to result in increased student success, enhanced parent and teacher satisfaction, and improved school climate.”

While parent organizations can fund specific school priorities, individual families can also make financial contributions to support valuable student experiences.

Applying for grants

CASEL reviewed numerous sources of funding for social-emotional learning, including government, private, and nonprofit grants. Grants can be valuable resources, though they sometimes require planning months or years in advance. Additionally, Edutopia outlines local, state, federal, and other sources of grant funding to help schools determine which source fits their needs best.

With increasing interest in social-emotional learning, schools will undoubtedly need to address the question of funding sources. No matter the funding source that your school selects, ensuring school-wide access to SEL equips your entire school community to become healthier, happier, and more productive.


About The Social Institute

The Social Institute partners with schools nationwide to empower students, parents, and educators to navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology positively through comprehensive, gamified lessons that meet students on their level as well as. We have partnered with forward-thinking institutions across the nation, including Ravenscroft School, Gaston Day School, Miss Porter’s School, Gilman School, Woodward Academy, U.S. Olympic athletes, Duke Men’s Basketball, ESPN, and others. For more information, contact us.