Schools Face Challenge of Sustaining Top Programs as COVID Funding Dries Up

In the past four years, an extraordinary $190 billion in federal COVID recovery funds has empowered state and local education authorities to experiment with a wide range of approaches to address the needs of students and educators. As the deadline approaches for utilizing the remaining funds, school districts are confronted with challenging choices regarding which initiatives are worth sustaining.

The Council of Chief State School Officers recently convened representatives from various major education associations, state agencies, and local school districts to exchange insights on their most successful initiatives and strategies to uphold programs that have shown the most promising results amidst budget constraints. The 74’s Beth Hawkins moderated a session focusing on a district’s initiative to gather data on effective practices.

Video recordings of the discussions have been released, highlighting innovative initiatives at the state, district, and school levels. For instance, officials in North Carolina discussed the establishment of an office of learning recovery within the state Department of Public Instruction, which will conduct research to inform lawmakers on K-12 policies. The state also developed a “funding cliff dashboard” to aid schools as they face the conclusion of federal aid.

A Georgia middle school principal shared how student office referrals were significantly reduced by obtaining detailed information on student well-being and adjusting staff priorities. This revealed a shift towards deeper engagement with students and proactive support systems.

During a panel discussion, Adam Kunz from St. Paul Public Schools and Andrew Strope from Indianapolis Public Schools discussed their districts’ commitment to prioritizing impactful recovery efforts despite the availability of additional funding. The emphasis was on investing in strategies with proven returns on investment.

Indianapolis focused on addressing inequities in special education and enhanced tutoring programs that led to significant improvements in math and reading outcomes. St. Paul’s approach involved planning for the conclusion of federal aid while pioneering innovative credit recovery programs that boosted student engagement and readiness for graduation.

Here are links to other sessions from the event:

Interview with North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and state Sen. Michael Lee on their state’s research efforts to inform education policy decisions.

Hear about the positive transformations in a middle school’s disciplinary climate and mental health support from the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals’ 2023 Middle School Principal of the Year Suzan Harris and eighth-grader Carter Glover.

Insights from Roberto Rodriguez, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the U.S. Department of Education, and Council of the Great City Schools Executive Director Ray Hart on sustaining effective investments from the ESSER funding.

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