K-12 Financial Landscape2023-08-10T23:16:14+00:00


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 edunomics@georgetown.edu with any questions or suggestions.

ESSER Expenditure Dashboard
30-Minute Webinar Series
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Spending ESSER $s
Resources for District Leaders
6 Tips for Communicating About ESSER Investments
A North Star for ESSER: Student Progress

External Resources

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 edunomics@georgetown.edu.

Relevant Resources

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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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