K-12 FINANCIAL LANDSCAPE
What is the financial outlook for public education?
The COVID-19 pandemic upended education – and education finance – in ways no one could have predicted. Leaders have gone from a landscape of budget cuts driven by economic turmoil, to one of dramatic increases thanks to the massive amount of one-time federal relief funds. AND NOW, districts are bracing for a fiscal cliff when the funds run out.
Our team has responded to numerous requests from state and district leaders about how to best spend these dollars, bring the most value for students, and maintain long-term fiscal health. We’ve been tracking real-time decisions and have designed trainings, tools, and resources for practitioners, advocates, and media. We regularly share what we’re learning in an ongoing series of 30-minute, interactive webinars, including how spending decisions impact budgets and labor.
Check back often for new resources, subscribe to our newsletter to learn about upcoming webinars, and email us at email@example.com with any questions or suggestions.
All About ESSER
Here are the latest analyses, tips, and tools from the Edunomics Lab team to help make sense of what federal relief funds mean for public education. Check back often for timely new resources to help navigate the current financial moment.
More Edunomics Lab Trackers
- Districts: ESSER $s for Students with Disabilities
- States: ESSER $s for Students with Disabilities
- State Education Chiefs: ESSER Set-Aside
Here are links to help district and state leaders understand the full scope of ESSER funding, including flexibilities and requirements, how much every district received in per-pupil terms, and where to track spending decisions across the country.
Questions about ESSER or suggestions for additional resources? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
30-Min Webinar: Make it or break it! This spring’s district budget choices matter tremendously for the years ahead.
Never before have district leaders faced such competing priorities: spend down relief dollars in ways that bring value for students, while also bracing for budget gaps unlike any in history. In this webinar we share what we're seeing in district balance sheets, and outline key issues for this spring's budget discussions.
The Massive ESSER Experiment: Here’s what we’re learning.
With 18 months to go before ESSER ends, Katherine Silberstein and Marguerite Roza take stock of how school districts have spent their funds so far, at Education Next.
Districts face deep financial pain in the next two years. Decisions made this spring will determine how it all plays out.
Marguerite Roza suggests keeping an eye on six critical issues during this spring's district budget discussions, as decisions made there will determine what happens on teacher layoffs, school closings, program cuts, and more.
The Stakes Are Only Getting Higher For Pandemic School Aid Spending
Higher spending in the final months of ESSER makes for deeper cuts come the 2024-25 school year, writes Marguerite Roza in Forbes. Meanwhile, students are still far behind where they should be.
ELab-U: Smart Money for School Leaders
Smart Money for School Leaders is a collection of education finance instructional modules developed by Edunomics Lab, Georgetown University designed to provide hands-on finance skills for school leaders.
Federal Data: Schools Have Been Adding Teachers Even As They Serve Fewer Students
For schools to improve their services and respond to student needs, it’s important to be precise about the exact staffing challenges they face, writes Chad Aldeman at The 74.
Let’s Pay Parents to Help With Learning Recovery
Some school districts are flush with cash, but can’t find enough people to fill their open roles. In this Education Week commentary Chad Aldeman asks: what if schools engage families to help make headway on student recovery efforts?
30-Min Webinar: Is it too late for districts to redirect ESSER commitments to tackle learning gaps?
The school year had already started when test scores emerged showing deep gaps in learning. Is it too late for districts to adjust their ESSER commitments to boost recovery efforts? In this webinar we share our latest look at ESSER spending and suggest ways that districts can redirect, and in some cases refocus, their federal relief funds to respond to emerging data on what students need most.
Time to Change the District Budget Dance
Getting maximum value from available dollars is imperative, and may require some changes to the traditional budget process, writes Marguerite Roza in School Business Affairs Magazine.
Why Are Fewer People Becoming Teachers?
What caused the decline in teacher-preparation enrollments and completions? Until we diagnose the problem accurately, we won’t be able to devise solutions to fix it, writes Chad Aldeman in Education Next.
On a Per-Student Basis, School Staffing Levels Are Hitting All-Time Highs
Schools in 46 states effectively lowered their teacher-student ratios by continuing to hire while enrollment has dropped, writes Chad Aldeman at The 74.
Financial Innovations During COVID Show Schools Can Be Nimble When They Have To
When districts break out of deeply ingrained expenditure habits, it's a big deal. Roza & Silberstein share four financial practices that emerged during the pandemic that we hope will last.
What Goes Wrong When Some School Board Members Don’t Understand District Finances?
A lack of school board financial expertise is especially problematic as members wrestle with the pressures of enrollment declines, inflation, and the temporary nature of federal relief funds, writes Marguerite Roza in Forbes.
30-Min Webinar: The financial forecast is in! School district budgets are headed for a wild ride.
School district budgets are about to be hit by a powerful wave of financial pressures. In this webinar we walk through a mix of factors, explain how - and when - they're likely to hit district budgets, and discuss how district and state leaders can make smart decisions now to prepare.
ESSER is fueling one-size-fits-all strategies. Let’s use data to deliver more targeted efforts.
The pandemic left schools with mammoth challenges. Using data to zero in on problem hotspots makes tackling them much more manageable. That should happen now, write Marguerite Roza and Ellie Roza, while federal relief money is still on the table.
30-Min Webinar: How can districts measure learning loss recovery costs?
In this webinar we share “The Calculator,” a new tool that estimates lost learning time in more than 8,000 school districts and how much a district would need to invest to get students back on track.
New Learning Loss Calculator Estimates COVID Slide, Costs of Catching Kids Up, in 8,000 School Districts
The Edunomics Lab team used the results from new research to build a calculator tool that estimates lost learning time in more than 8,000 school districts and what it will cost to get students back on track. In this commentary published by The 74, the authors urge district leaders to take stock of where their students are, and invest federal relief dollars now in ways that work for students.
What Are Districts Using Their Federal Relief Money for? How Fast Are They Spending It? How Much Is Left? New Interactive Database Has Answers
Because Congress directed federal relief funds to flow through states, districts file for reimbursement as the funds go out the door. In an analysis published by The 74, the Edunomics Lab team shares early results of tracking the actual spending data, district by district.
Inflation Will Put Districts in a Pickle
With contract negotiations pending and federal relief funds complicating the labor market, how can school districts respond to rising inflation pressures? In this Education Next commentary, Marguerite Roza suggests options to help mitigate long-term fiscal impacts.
ESSER Spending: Connecting Investments and Outcomes
In this National Comprehensive Center webinar, Edunomics Lab shared an “investment tool” to help SEAs and LEAs assess their ESSER III investments and finalize spending plans to do the most for students.
Responding to a Tight Teacher Labor Market
In this article in School Business Affairs Magazine, the authors outline the types of innovative compensation strategies some districts are using to attract and retain talent in response to a tight labor market.
A year ago, school districts got a windfall of pandemic aid. How’s that going?
In this Brookings Chalkboard blog, Marguerite Roza and Katherine Silberstein look at the magnitude of federal relief fund spending and conclude that districts need to up the pace at which money goes out the door each month.
Talking about ESSER: Ways to Build Community Trust and Keep the Focus on Results for Students
Laura Anderson and Marguerite Roza map six ways district leaders can communicate about and help make the most of their ESSER investments.
Marguerite Roza discusses how school districts should use federal COVID-19 relief funds to improve student outcomes
In an interview with Jude Schwalbach at Reason Foundation, Marguerite Roza urges leaders to stay laser-focused on the federal relief funds’ true purpose: ameliorating learning loss and getting kids back on track.
Punishment for Making Hard Choices in a Crisis: Federal Prison
In this Education Next commentary, Marguerite Roza explains why every education leader should care about what happened to Julia Keleher.
Setting Student Progress as a North Star Would Be a Game Changer
Shifting the focus from what districts are purchasing with ESSER funds to what progress students are making would be a game changer, writes Marguerite Roza in The 74.
There Is No ‘Big Quit’ in K-12 Education. But Schools Have Specific Labor Challenges That Need Targeted Solutions
There is no 'Big Quit' in K-12 education. But schools have specific labor challenges that need targeted solutions, writes Chad Aldeman in The 74.
Focus On Student Outcomes, Not How Federal Funds Are Spent
Congress attached few strings to federal relief funds and will have to trust school districts to spend the money wisely. Chad Aldeman writes in Forbes that the Feds could now help clarify what the money was for by focusing on the student outcomes that matter most.
30-Min Webinar: Will We Ever Know How ESSER Is Being Spent?
In this webinar we look at how federal relief money is being tracked and what we're learning as a result.
How COVID-19 Ushered in a Wave of Promising Teacher Pay Reforms
This brief outlines the types of teacher pay innovations popping up in the midst of the pandemic, explains why they matter, and highlights some of the districts trying them. It remains to be seen whether some of these innovations may live on beyond the pandemic if district leaders find them effective.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Spending COVID-Relief Funds
With $190 billion in federal relief funds going to schools, Marguerite Roza shares likely spending mistakes districts will make and some prescriptions for how to prevent them.
An Idea For This Moment: Districts Can Pay Families To Help Get Students And Schools Back On Track
Sharing a portion of federal relief funds with families offers school districts a chance to re-engage students and parents and sends a message that they are valued partners in solving problems that directly affect them, writes Marguerite Roza in Forbes.
Ed Finance Guru Marguerite Roza on How Schools Can Best Spend Covid Aid
In an interview with Rick Hess, Marguerite Roza shares her take on how school district leaders can spend COVID-19 aid wisely and well.
The scarcity mindset that plagues education news
Education finance is a messy topic for journalists, and this last year has made it especially hard to neatly summarize the issues. Chad Aldeman cautions that reporters who focus exclusively on questions of scarcity may perpetuate a false narrative and miss the biggest education finance story of the last decade: How are district leaders spending their new financial windfalls, and what effect is it having on students?
Decrease in Student Enrollment: Forcing Tough Decisions
While the infusion of federal relief aid has temporarily protected most school districts from the fiscal impact of enrollment losses, this article in School Business Affairs magazine highlights why it's important to proactively plan now for how to maintain services once those supplemental funds are gone.
Fewer students are attending public schools. What does that mean for the future of school district finances?
This analysis compares the amount of money school districts will receive from the two largest federal COVID relief packages (ESSER II and III) versus their projected budgetary declines due to enrollment losses.
There’s a fiscal cliff coming, and some districts appear hell-bent on making it worse
Districts are right to worry about a fiscal cliff when federal relief aid runs out, cautions Marguerite Roza, but leaders have options beyond handwringing.
From Paying Parents to Transport Their Kids to School to Calling Out the National Guard — Innovating in the Face of a Bus Driver Shortage
How districts react to unusual labor challenges like the bus driver shortage may tell us whether they can adapt to meet the moment and which, if any, will consider adopting innovations common in industries outside of education.
Districts Like San Diego Could Be Locking Themselves Into Painful Cuts Down the Road
Rather than making long-term commitments that can lead to financial stress down the road, Chad Aldeman suggests there are other ways for districts to both raise pay and build capacity.
Maintenance of Equity: A New Provision with Big Implications for District Budgeting
Chad Aldeman and Marguerite Roza explain how an expansive interpretation of a new federal provision could have unintended consequences.
What will MoEquity mean for district budgets?
In this webinar Marguerite Roza and Chad Aldeman discuss the new guidance for the maintenance of equity provision and what it would mean for districts faced with implementing it.
Wise Spending of Your Federal Relief Funds
As school districts decide how to spend their flexible federal relief funding, Marguerite Roza and Chad Aldeman offer five key questions to help ensure they make the most of it for students.
5 Ways Principals Can Make Federal Relief Money Matter More For Their Students
Marguerite Roza and Laura Anderson map five ways principals can help make the most of the American Rescue Plan dollars, in a blog published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
Communication Template for Principals on Use of Federal Relief Funds
Based on messaging research on how district staff, principals, teachers, and parents engage with and react to information about school finance, this template will help principals engage their community in a way that cultivates trust and helps make the most of the federal relief dollars.
Will the American Rescue Plan’s ‘Meaningful Consultation’ Requirement Usher in Community Participation in School Budgets?
In Forbes, Marguerite Roza writes that the federal requirement for “meaningful consultation” on the use of ARP funds sounds like a call for participatory budgeting, and wonders whether it could prompt a new level of civic engagement in school spending.
Congress Provided Billions To Schools. Will Districts Spend It Creatively?
In this Forbes commentary, Chad Aldeman explains how the American Recovery Plan differs from past federal relief efforts for schools, and what that means for state and district leaders looking to make these one-time dollars count.
Smart ways to cover the coming ‘year of ed finance’
Marguerite Roza offers six tips for reporters on covering how school districts choose to spend $122 billion in flexible American Rescue Plan funds, the biggest onetime federal payout to schools ever.
Early Analysis of State ARP Plans
Using a financial lens, the Edunomics Lab team offers an early analysis of state education agency plans for using ARP funds.
Let Schools, Not District Offices, Decide How to Spend Some Federal Aid
In this Education Next commentary, Marguerite Roza and Jessica Swanson suggest that districts give a portion of federal relief dollars directly to schools to decide how best to spend on behalf of their students.
Teacher Dissatisfaction May Be High, But So Are Retention Rates
Across Washington state, public schools retained a higher percentage of teachers last year than they do in normal years. That's important information for school district leaders as they decide how to spend the windfall of federal relief funds headed their way.
Billions of Federal Funds Are Coming to Schools. How Should They Spend Them?
Adding staff has been the main “big bet” in public education for decades. With new federal relief aid heading to schools, will district leaders meet the moment with new and different ideas for what students need now?
30-Min Webinar: Federal Funds Are Flowing! What We’re Finding
In this webinar, we take the pulse on school districts' early ESSER spending plans to share some of the patterns we're seeing.
By Paying Stipends to Schools’ Teaching Staff, Districts Can Add Learning Time Without Breaking the Bank
In this commentary at The 74, Chad Aldeman shows how offering current teachers stipends to take on more hours could provide students with additional learning time without locking districts into long-term financial obligations.
Best- and worst-case scenarios for how school stimulus dollars will be spent
Will an unprecedented federal infusion of money lead to an unprecedented recovery effort? In this Thomas B. Fordham Institute blog, Chad Aldeman considers the range of possibilities.
With federal relief dollars on the way, districts face big decisions
In this Education Next commentary, Marguerite Roza and Chad Aldeman suggest that it's a good time for leaders to employ the classic "would you rather" test to help explore spending tradeoffs and think through the cost and value of competing investments.
30-Min Webinar: Teacher Labor Market Trends and What They Mean For District Budgets
In this webinar, we share what we're learning from the data on teacher turnover and discuss how the current fiscal conditions should inform staffing and salaries as districts navigate budget and hiring season.
Remote or in Person? Underspending or Running Deficits? What School Reopening Decisions Mean for District Budgets
An Edunomics Lab analysis finds that while many districts are struggling financially, those that have remained mostly or entirely virtual have actually been able to save money. Some are even on pace to run surpluses this year.
30-Min Webinar: Open Or Remote? What It Means For School District Budgets
In this webinar we explore how district spending varies depending on whether schools are remote or in-person (is the financial focus on remediation? or on reopening?), and look at what new federal relief dollars could mean for district finances.
During the pandemic, lost education jobs aren’t what they seem
In this Brookings Chalkboard blog, Chad Aldeman digs into BLS data to find that recent public education job losses stem from a slowdown in hiring, not layoffs or a surge in worker turnover.
Proceed with caution: With enrollment drops, states are looking to hold district budgets harmless
In this brief, Hannah Jarmolowski and Marguerite Roza outline what states need to weigh when it comes to hold harmless provisions.
Lessons from Spanish Flu — Babies Born in 1919 Had Worse Educational, Life Outcomes Than Those Born Just Before or After. Could That Happen With COVID-19?
Chad Aldeman shares an analysis of the life trajectories of babies born during the Spanish Flu, and possible implications for the economic impacts of COVID-19.
30-Min Webinar: Impacts of Enrollment Shifts and Learning Loss on District Finances
In this webinar we look at the implications of enrollment losses and state revenue declines for school district budget decisions, including hold harmless policies that protect districts from losing state funds. We also consider different district investment options to address learning loss with new federal funds.
30-Min Webinar: The New Federal Aid Package
In this webinar we answer early questions about the new federal relief funds for education and share the latest financial updates and what they mean for state and district leaders in the coming months.
Financial Leadership: Meeting This Moment
This article in School Business Affairs magazine illuminates the critical need to develop district leaders' strategic finance skills.
How Federal Education Aid Can Tackle The K-Shaped Learning Recovery: Let’s start with $3000 Per Disengaged Student.
In this op-ed, Marguerite Roza proposes a separate, flexible sum targeted at helping students for whom pandemic schooling isn't working.
Use caution, district leaders: Even in a pandemic, there’s no immunity from financial missteps
In this Thomas B. Fordham Institute article, Marguerite Roza warns that district leaders may be at a higher risk for accusations of financial missteps.
When it Comes to School Funds, Hold-Harmless Provisions Aren’t “Harmless”
In this Education Next article, Marguerite Roza and Hannah Jarmolowski share how state leaders can address budget shortfalls without making disproportionate cuts to high-poverty districts.
Analysis: Pandemic-Fueled Financial Turbulence Is Hitting School Districts Across the Country. Here’s What to Watch for
In this analysis, Marguerite Roza and Katie Silberstein discuss how districts across the country have been making budget decisions in the midst of the pandemic and evolving reopening scenarios.
Financial uncertainty requires leaders to make tough choices and stay focused on students
In this invited commentary for The 74, Marguerite Roza and Katie Silberstein discuss how keeping students at the center of decision-making can help leaders make tough choices amid competing pressures.
30-Min Webinar: Updated Financials, and State and District Responses
As shortfalls in state budgets take shape, the financial outlook for public education is changing rapidly. In this webinar we share the latest implications for district finances and staffing, and a round-up of how states and districts across the country are responding.
The financial landscape and what it means for public education
In this series of 30-minute webinars, Marguerite Roza shares what we are learning as the financial outlook for public education evolves and implications for states and districts as they make financial plans for the coming weeks and year.
Straight Talk In Financially Uncertain Times: How District Leaders Can Communicate About The Messy Financial Landscape Coming Their Way
In this guest blog post, Laura Anderson and Marguerite Roza share how district leaders can best communicate financial decisions to their staff and communities in order to build trust.
How Lawmakers Can Raise Teacher Pay Without Decimating Pension Funds
In this op-ed, Marguerite Roza analyzes how making any near-term teacher raises non-pensionable could impact state governments and K-12 teachers and students.
Could states save money if raises during a recession were designated as non-pensionable?
This brief examines how making raises non-pensionable would impact teacher pensions and government pension debt.
Waiting for Congress to Bail Out Schools Is a Risky Game of Chicken. Time for Districts to Come Up With Plan B — and for States to Help
In this commentary published by The 74, Marguerite Roza worries that a $200 billion ask for a federal bailout for schools seems to be an incomplete strategy, and argues that districts need to work now on the cost side of the equation as well.
Webinar: Financial Turmoil for Public Education: Projections, stimulus, and what superintendents and principals can expect
Webinar with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, on what the financial turmoil will mean for public education and what superintendents and principals should expect.
How the coronavirus shutdown will affect school district revenues
In this Brookings Chalkboard blog, Marguerite Roza discusses what a larger state role in education funding means for districts during an economic downturn.
30-Min Webinar: Projections, Stimulus, and Typical District Actions
What will the financial turmoil will mean for public education? In this webinar we share what we are learning about the economic outlook, CARES Act, other stimulus efforts, and what states and districts might consider as they make financial plans for the coming weeks and year.
30-Min Webinar: What Will the Financial Turmoil Mean for Public Education?
In response to numerous inquiries on how school systems will be affected by the economic turmoil, this short interactive webinar shares what we are learning about the financial outlook, and what states and districts might consider as they make financial plans for the coming weeks and year.
Dear districts: These are the glory days. Are you ready for tomorrow’s financial pain?
In this commentary, Marguerite Roza writes that districts have a chance to strategically prepare for the inevitable economic downturn by reducing recurring costs and resisting more hiring; shifting budget choices to schools, allowing them to protect what matters most; and building trust around money and engaging community in tradeoffs.
What Happens to Teacher Salaries During a Recession?
This study uses data from Seattle Public Schools to explore actual salary changes amidst rapid changes in economic context and the effect of the recession on teacher pay.
The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students
A study of California's 15 largest districts indicates that "last in, first out" policies disproportionately affect the programs and students in their poorer and more minority schools than in their wealthier, less minority counterparts.
K–12 Job Trends Amidst Stimulus Funds: Early Findings
This brief explores trends in K–12 education jobs—those funded through the stimulus and by other means—to answer the question of what role ARRA played in overall education employment.
Beyond Teacher Reassignments: Better Ways Districts Can Remedy Salary Inequities Across Schools
This brief demonstrates how, contrary to common worry, closing Title I's "comparability provision" loophole would not force districts to mandatorily reassign teachers.
Have States Disproportionately Cut Education Budgets During ARRA? Early Findings
This analysis explores how state education spending has changed or will change given the application of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a policy intended to stabilize state budgets and avert cuts to education.
Seniority-Based Layoffs Will Exacerbate Job Loss in Public Education
This brief details why K-12 school districts that lay off personnel according to seniority cause disproportionate damage to their programs and students than if layoffs were determined on a seniority-neutral basis.
Certificate in Ed Finance (CEF)
Financial and resource allocation issues influence all aspects of U.S. public education policy yet are often not fully understood. This one-of-a-kind Certificate in Education Finance (CEF) equips participants with the practical skills they need in strategic fiscal management, finance policy analysis, and financial leadership to deploy resources in ways that do the most for students.
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