- Posted by Jim Houliston
- On Jan 9, 2021
- 0 Comments
Happy 2021, K-12 World! Hope you and yours are enjoying the New Year!
With a 2020 of budget cuts, furloughs, face masks, openings, closings, re-openings, re-closings, re-RE-openings, etc, you may still be feeling dizzy. With the New Year though comes new hope and new opportunities! How do you want this new year to look for you and your team?
New COVID Relief Package
Much needed relief for schools has come through! The new COVID relief package includes $54.3B for K-12 schools – four times what they received in March with the CARES Act. These dollars will primarily be delivered through Title I funding.
The package also includes $7B to expand internet access, $10B for child care and funding for meal programs. Just like the CARES Act in March, this new round allows for a wide range of uses of the funding dollars. In addition to using the money for pandemic-related initiatives, schools essentially have a lot of flexibility in using the money for activities to support learning, safety and equity.
Challenges and Innovation
One of the obvious challenges facing schools is to tame the pandemic and develop effective, anti-pandemic strategies. Some of the ways schools are looking to do this:
- Ensuring safety standards are in place before planning to re-open
- Investing in innovation for remote learning and working
- Investing in tools for electronic processes that can reinforce safety and support processes at their sites
- Exploring strategies that impact teacher quality and district efficiency
- Hiring and retaining qualified teachers
All of these will need innovative thinking and changes in current paper-heavy, manual processes toward more efficient, electronic systems.
New Administration and Expectations
As the leader of the new administration, President-elect Joe Biden called school closures a “national emergency,” citing only 38% of U.S. children as living within a K-12 district that offers in-person schooling. This creates great concern for learning loss and social/emotional impact.
Increased coordination at the federal level can help schools with re-opening by tracking cases nationally and giving more safety guidance. Biden’s COVID Task Force has said that the reopening of many elementary schools hasn’t shown a big surge in cases; arguably a sign to open back up, safely, of course. Safety is not to be taken for granted, however.
Nearly 1 million educators have been laid off since the pandemic, due to the subsequent recession. The new administration promises to do the following:
- Triple Title I funding
- Raise teacher pay
- Double the amount of mental health workers
- Introduce public, universal pre-school
This human capital investment is expected to improve teacher quality, retain K-12 staff, and improve district efficiency.
The new administration may incentivize health and education agencies to share data, coordinate resource allocation, streamline communications, engage parents and communities, and deploy rapid response teams to combat hot spots. This can also translate into tools for electronic processes that can reinforce safety.
What All This Means for K-12 and Specifically HR and Business
Schools and districts tell us they want a better way of doing things for 2021. And how about you? Can you clearly imagine a better way?…
In a recent conversation our team had with a district HR Director, he told us they’re doing their best to help other departments and their employees, but that they need the best tools to be able to provide the best service. In essence, “we need to put on our own oxygen masks first before we can help others”.
Staying on top of safety and ensuring you have the right tools in place to help you get there, can create a big difference in the year ahead. We wish you the best with 2021!