7 Ways 5,000 Districts & Charter Networks Are Spending Relief Funds on Teachers

From The 74, October 11, 2022, by Phyllis W. Jordan & Bella DiMarco

In rural enclaves and city centers, in red states and blue, school districts share the same top priority for federal COVID relief aid: spending on teachers and other staff who can help students recover from the pandemic, academically and emotionally. Local education agencies are on pace to spend as much as $20 billion on instructional staff under the American Rescue Plan. In many places, the federal support comes on top of substantial state and local teacher investments.

To understand state and local policymakers’ strategies for bolstering teaching resources in the wake of the pandemic, FutureEd analyzed the COVID relief spending plans of 5,000 districts and charter organizations, representing 74% of the nation’s public school students. And we examined additional documents and conducted interviews to gauge how the nation’s 100 largest districts plan to reinforce their teaching ranks with the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER III). 

The result is a comprehensive picture of state and local spending on the nation’s more than 3 million-member teaching force — including new hires, innovative ways to leverage top teachers, an emerging commitment to extra pay for longer hours and bonuses that break with traditional pay schedules to combat staff shortages. The challenges presented by the scale of the federal funding and the short window for spending it also emerged from the analysis. 

We found seven significant spending trends. …

6. Improved Working Conditions

The pandemic has left many teachers stressed out and stretched thin. In response, some districts are using federal aid to improve working conditions, particularly allowing more time for planning and collaboration. 

Houston is spending federal funds to move teachers in 18 schools toward a new approach to school management known as Opportunity Culture®. Educators will receive $15,000 stipends annually to serve as classroom leaders across a grade level or subject. They’ll teach part time while managing teams of teachers, paraprofessionals and instructors in teacher residency programs to analyze student data, adjust instruction and develop their skills. The stipends are part of Houston’s regular budget, but federal funding is being used to expedite training and implementation.

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