On top of immense public health and learning challenges, school districts are grappling with critical questions about their financial future. What are the magnitude of state and local revenue shortfalls? What is the cost to fund new public health measures, social-emotional and mental health supports, and necessary academic interventions? Will there be additional federal stimulus funds to support education? Even amid uncertainty, districts need to carry out proactive planning processes that ensure their spending remains aligned to their long-term (three to five year) strategic priorities, especially the initiatives and services that support students with the highest needs.
How do individual schools get their funds from districts, how do districts get funding from states, and how do states generate revenue for education? These are little-understood mechanisms, and what’s more, the way we finance schools looks different in almost every community because of statutory structures and local context. There’s a lot of prognosticating going around about how school budgets will look next calendar and school year due to COVID-19, but the economic shock flowing through the education sector needs to be tempered with some fact checking and clarity.