In the Wake of the Pandemic: School Districts at a Crossroads
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in significant changes in all aspects of our lives, with school districts bearing a particularly heavy burden. As schools begin to exhaust the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds allocated in 2020 and 2021, they face the daunting challenge of maintaining operations without this financial support. In South San Antonio, Texas, a school board president warned that the expiration of ESSER funds could cause the district to run out of money altogether within a year and a half.
The pandemic-induced school closures dealt a severe blow to both students and school administrations. A study by the Center for Reinventing Public Education at Arizona State University revealed that only 21% of teachers could deliver their full curriculum during the 2020-2021 school year.
Moreover, the mental health of students suffered, further impeding their personal and academic growth. Adriana Publico, the ESSER Project Manager at Washoe County School District in Nevada, expressed concern about the emotional recovery of students once ESSER III funds expire:
“We don’t see any federal funding on the horizon,” she said. “And we’re just talking about academics. The social and emotional side I think is going to take even longer because literally everybody’s lived through multiple layers of trauma.”
As we transition towards a semblance of normalcy, the challenges and changes instigated by the pandemic continue to affect schools. With the dwindling ESSER funds, school districts are left grappling with the question: What's next?
Strategies for Survival: Navigating the Post-ESSER Landscape
Mark Lieberman, a reporter for Education Week covering school finance, outlines four actionable steps for schools moving forward. The first step involves transparent communication with the broader community about the status of ESSER funds and plans for those funds. Some districts have solicited taxpayers to bridge the funding gap, but this approach has met with mixed responses due to a lack of understanding about the pandemic's impact on schools and the role of ESSER funds. The second step emphasizes the importance of tracking funds allocated for worker’s salaries. By understanding the distribution of school funds and the potential impact of job losses, districts can make informed decisions about layoffs. Budget management and planning can be daunting for school administrators, but can be made easier with school-focused solutions like Edstruments. The third and fourth steps involve seeking deadline extensions for ESSER II and III funds while preparing for the possibility that these extensions may not be granted. Schools need to evaluate the effectiveness of their pandemic recovery processes and prioritize the changes that were most impactful for students. This requires continuous monitoring and assessment of time and money invested, as well as the outcomes of these changes.
Building on Mark Lieberman's insights, it's crucial to consider the real-world implications of the success of these strategies. In North Carolina, Chatham County Schools had to close a fully remote learning option made available during the pandemic due to "budgetary changes". Closures of remote options like this can have a higher adverse impact on students who have health conditions that make remote learning safer than in-person options.
Looking Ahead: Mitigating Losses and Maximizing Resources
As ESSER funds near expiration and school districts revert to more traditional funding levels, tools like Edstruments can assist in deploying the remaining funds effectively and planning robust budgets for future years. By providing a comprehensive solution for budget management,planning, and procurement, Edstruments is committed to supporting schools in this critical transition and beyond.
If you're interested in learning more about how Edstruments can help your organization, contact us today. Use offer code "ESSER" in the form to get access to a special welcome discount for reading this article!
Edstruments was founded to help public school systems and nonprofits make the most of their resources. We work with leaders in all roles to empower their decision-making, utilizing principles like those written about in this article. Increase your collaboration, plan multiple scenarios with ease, and deploy your dollars more strategically. Interested in learning more? Reach out to our team at email@example.com today!