January 14, 2021

Featured News

A potential consequence of Democrats’ Senate win: Even more money for schools

After Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package in December, President-elect Joe Biden called it a “down payment.” So did Becky Pringle, president of the nation’s largest teachers union. The money was a start, they said, but not everything schools or the economy needed to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Neither mentioned the awkward reality at the time: there was no guarantee that any more money was forthcoming. If Republicans held onto control of the Senate, those plans might have run into the buzzsaw of opposition that had limited ambitious COVID relief proposals floated by Democrats throughout last year.

Last week, Democrats in Georgia won two Senate runoffs, and with them, unified control of Congress and the presidency. That shift still doesn’t guarantee more money is coming for schools — but it makes it a whole lot more likely. “What is Biden going to be able to do in a COVID response now that he has a Democratic Senate? Actually put forward a serious dollar amount,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng of AASA, the national school superintendents association, which is among the groups pushing for more money. “That’s a huge difference that comes with a Democratic Senate.”

An additional round of aid could have a big impact on schools’ ability to help students close academic gaps with initiatives like tutoring or longer school days. Last March, Congress provided $13 billion in relief money for schools. In December, lawmakers added another $54 billion. That’s a lot of money — for context, the federal government usually spends $60 billion a year on K-12 education. But advocates say schools still need substantially more. For one thing, a pandemic-fueled recession has hit the state tax revenue that funds schools, which means budget cuts could still be coming. “States and localities under financial strain because of the pandemic will be cutting local funding because they have to balance their budgets,” Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the House education committee, recently told Education Week. “And education will obviously be adversely affected.”

Democrats had pushed for aid to state and city governments to plug funding gaps, but that wasn’t included in the December package amid Republican opposition. With Democrats in control, there is a much clearer path for relief for state and local governments, which Biden and even some Republicans support. Congress could also allocate money specifically to address learning loss. Studies show that many students had fallen behind academically by the start of this school year, and those gaps may be growing as many students continue to learn remotely. Schools can use some of their $54 billion to address learning loss. But those efforts can be expensive. A recent estimate found that providing small-group tutoring to every student in the country would cost about $50 billion.

Resources and Connections

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In the News

In the News

Inside the Effort to Find and Help Disengaged Youth

This time last year, Kahlil Kuykendall, a youth development consultant for an organization supporting teenage girls, would spend school lunches bonding with students in three Washington, D.C., middle schools. She would help the 30 or so girls develop stronger goal-setting skills, learn more about college and careers, and navigate the storms of adolescence.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which closed school buildings and sent the economy into a tailspin. An unknown number of children and youth—as many as 3 million, by one estimate—have not had a meaningful connection to their schools since in-person learning was disrupted in March. Those adults, such as Kuykendall, who work closest with these students and their families, are now using every tool they have to keep these vulnerable youth connected to their education. Read more here

Witnessing History: Teachers and students left reeling, looking for lessons in an insurrection. 

Teachers once again found themselves Thursday trying to explain a tumultuous turning point in our nation’s history, just as they did following the initial uncertainty of November’s election, the unrest after George Floyd’s killing, and at the start of the pandemic. Many accepted the challenge, viewing this as a moment to interrogate what the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday at President Trump’s urging says about race, violence, and the future of democracy.

Educators turned to news articles and artwork, social media posts, and Zoom chats to help their conversations. Scrapping lesson plans, they saw themselves as both facilitators and sources for correcting misinformation. All the while, they were mindful of the confusion, the trauma, and the emotional fatigue many children have already endured. Read more here. 

New Study by Fordham Institute on Missing Student Data
Two years of missing test data would derail calculations of students’ academic growth, according to a new study released by the Fordham Institute. It finds, using pre-pandemic data, that states could calculate growth scores with one year of data missing in a way that would be reasonably accurate. But those calculations become impossible for many schools with two years of data missing, leaving states and schools without a metric that is seen as fairer than raw test scores. (The incoming Biden administration will decide whether to let states cancel testing again this school year.) One possibility mentioned in the paper: postpone the tests usually given in the spring until the fall. 
Please note that the articles and events in the NCTR E-Blast do not reflect the opinions of our organization, but rather represent information that we believe will be relevant to you and your programs.

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