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End of pandemic funding forces some schools to consider cutting teachers, programming

Stephanie Hughes May 15, 2024
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Schools must account for pandemic relief funds by Sept. 30, Jon Cherry/Getty Images

End of pandemic funding forces some schools to consider cutting teachers, programming

Stephanie Hughes May 15, 2024
Heard on:
Schools must account for pandemic relief funds by Sept. 30, Jon Cherry/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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To help students get through the pandemic, the federal government gave school districts nearly $190 billion to spend on lots of things: HVAC systems, counselors, extra teachers. Schools have relied on that money for more than three years.

But time’s up: The funds have to be accounted for by Sept. 30, which means that school districts working on their budgets now for next year are facing hard choices.

Around the country, school districts that hired staff using pandemic funds have to make decisions like ‘Do we let go of a social worker or a teacher?’

“So it’s really pitting a position versus a position and they’re all needed,” said Gustavo Balderas, incoming president of the School Superintendents Association. He also leads a district in Beaverton, Oregon.

Having to make these kinds of decisions is the ickiest part of the job, he said — and it comes after schools got used to having extra staff and programming.

“During the pandemic recovery period, we just sort of threw everything at the wall,” said Marguerite Roza, who directs the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown. “We saw districts launch dozens and dozens of initiatives at the same time.”

Now, Roza said that some districts are cutting vendor contracts. “Things like the Boys & Girls Club that offers after school care programs, or learning apps, security systems.”

Schools will need to be strategic with the funds they do have, she added. Even though these pandemic relief funds are ending, Roza pointed out that students still haven’t recovered — and she’s worried they’ll graduate without the skills they need.

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