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COVID-19

K-12 public schools still count on kids to show up for funding

Erika Beras Nov 9, 2020
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A teacher and student wearing masks speak between classes at Rippowam Middle School in September in Stamford, Connecticut. John Moore/Getty Images
COVID-19

K-12 public schools still count on kids to show up for funding

Erika Beras Nov 9, 2020
Heard on:
A teacher and student wearing masks speak between classes at Rippowam Middle School in September in Stamford, Connecticut. John Moore/Getty Images
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Most K-12 public schools in this country are funded based on daily enrollment and attendance figures. But in this extraordinary academic year, when about half of the nation’s public school students are attending class online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how do districts and schools gather and gauge that data and get the funds they need?

Morcease Beasley, the superintendent of Clayton County Public Schools in the Atlanta area, expected about 3,600 kindergartners this year. Only 3,036 enrolled. 

He’s been telling parents “you can’t skip kindergarten and then next year come into first grade and think you’re gonna get this host of services. And funding has been negatively impacted because of your actions.”

Most public schools get their funding from three primary sources: local taxes, less than 10% from the federal government and about half from the state.

But COVID-19 has slammed state budgets. 

“The overwhelming majority of that funding, like 90% or more, comes from sales and income taxes,” said Mariajose Romero, a researcher at Pace University. 

As the halfway mark in the academic year approaches, some schools are all virtual, some are in person and some are a mix. Home schooling has gained momentum, and private school enrollments are up in some places. And parents continue to make all kinds of decisions, including parents of kindergarteners who have decided to sit the year out. 

All of that will have a continuing financial impact on public schools, said Hedy Chang, director of the nonprofit Attendance Works.  

“What will states do next year as they determine how they will fund schools in the 2021-2022 school year?” Chang said.

One concern for school districts is that screen fatigue may drive down attendance as the year drags on. There’s already evidence of that, said Ben Court, an education consultant with EAB.

“Students were showing up for classes, but people are now getting tired,” he said. 

In Georgia, Beasley of Clayton County Public Schools said right now virtual attendance is steady. But with lower enrollment, he knows next year’s finances may be unpredictable.

“We’ll just have to make those decisions at that time,” he said.

Public schools received Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding in the spring. Requests for more help from the federal government have stalled. So for now, every student who shows up — or logs in — adds to the bottom line. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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