Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 7
Schools Left Hanging as States Dither on Budget Cuts
By Daarel Burnette II
School district administrators this
month have been placed in a torturous
There's no question that state sales
and income tax revenue have plummeted because of the coronavirus
pandemic and that most districts will
have to swallow sizeable budget cuts
in the coming months if Congress
doesn't come up with another relief
package. But in most states, legislatures haven't given a clue as to how
much public schools will be expected
Not knowing how much money
they'll have to work with this fall
makes it all the more difficult for
school officials to decide which contracts to renew, how many teachers
to hire this fall, and when to open
school back up.
"It's chaos, and it's been challenging to deal with all the political uncertainty on top of the other chaos that
districts are dealing with at the moment," said Heather DuBois Bourenane, the director of the Wisconsin
Public Education Network, a school
funding advocacy organization.
"We're hearing, 'Get ready to tighten
your belt.' Well, the belts were already
tightend before this happened. It's
stressful for our districts to try to adjust to students' growing needs with
even more insufficient funds."
According to Edunomics, a school
policy think tank based at Georgetown University, 27 states still have
not revised their fiscal projections
of how much revenue districts could
lose this year and next since the pandemic has hit. Thirteen states have
given school districts a general warning that they will likely soon have to
make budget cuts, and only 11 states
have given detailed warnings about
how much revenue they can expect to
lose this year.
More and more district administrators have indicated to the EdWeek
Research Center that they expect
to make steep budget cuts this year.
In March, when the pandemic first
hit, only 42 percent of surveyed administrators said they expect budget
cuts, but when that same question
was posed last month, more than 52
percent said they expect budget cuts.
More than a quarter of respondents
said last month that they think their
district will get more money next year.
When budget cuts are passed by
states' legislatures later this summer,
districts, with just a few weeks before
school starts, will have to scramble
to rewrite their budget, cut programs
and lay off staff. This sort of budgetcutting can be emotionally fraught,
politically contentious and, in the
long run, academically destructive.
But K-12 finance experts say district
administrators shouldn't wait. They
suggest administrators act now to
avoid haphazardly making classroom
cuts this year.
"If states wait longer to revise their
budget projections...that will send
districts further into the future before
making any spending changes which
A majority of school
district leaders in a
recent survey said they
expected spending to
drop in the coming year
compared with fewer
than half in late March.
SOURCE: EdWeek Research
If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that, due to coronavirus,
in the next year, spending in our school district will:
nStay the Same
Overcommunicate. Administrators should be explicit with school
board members, parents, and teachers about the looming budget deficit, said Jonathan Travers, a partner
with Education Resource Strategies, which consults with urban districts on ways to make money have
more impact in the classroom. Even
though administrators may not
know exactly how much they will
have to cut out of their budget this
year, administrators should convene
working groups to talk openly about
what the district currently spends
their money on and collect ideas on
how to make budget cuts.
In Education Week's survey, 40
percent of principals said they knew
"a lot" about how the coronavirus
would impact their district's budget, while another 41 percent said
they knew "some." The rest of the
respondents said they knew little or
nothing at all.
"A CFO's chief responsibility is to
explain, not defend," said Travers.
"I think the most strategic CFOs are
going to help districts understand
why school spending numbers are
what they are."
Assess now your students'
needs and f igure out what
programs are working and not
working. Travers has also encouraged district CFOs to work more
collaboratively with academic teams
to have a good understanding of
where students' greatest needs are.
He encourages administrators to use
the time before legislative sessions
to pore through test scores and talk
with principals to gather anecdotal
information about programs that
are academically essential for struggling students. This information will
come in handy when it comes time
to cut, he said.
could require deeper cuts," Marguerite Roza, a Georgetown University
school finance professor, during a
recent webinar. "If you can't save
money now, you'll have to save more
and save more suddenly at the end
of the summer and possibly after the
school year starts. That's why those
of us who look at the fiscal impact are
very anxious about timing and when
districts are notified. We're in chapter two of an eight chapter story. This
thing is not done yet. So stay tuned."
Below are four tips from finance
experts on how to mitigate budget
cuts this summer.
Trim costs now. Administrators in
Portland, Ore., knew budget cuts were
on their way so the district this spring
took cost-cutting measures in preparation for a brutal budget year. It's a
model administrators have encouraged other districts to replicate.
The district's school board cut one
day out of the school week, closed the
administrative buildings on Fridays,
froze hiring, cut back on purchasing,
Opening Doors to
and instituted for its entire teaching
force a 20 percent pay cut. The district encouraged teachers to apply for
partial unemployment through the
CARES Act this year to make up for
the cut in their paychecks. In total, the
district made more than $10 million in
cuts, which administrators predict will
save more than 66 jobs next year when
they expect the state to cut more than
$60 million from its budget when they
Come up with budget-cutting
scenarios now. When Nolberto Delgadillo, the CFO of Tulsa's schools in
Oklahoma, had just finished making
drastic cuts out of his district's budget
this year, an arduous, months-long
process, the COVID-19 pandemic hit
and oil prices tanked. It was a clear sign
that he needed to quickly reconvene
board members, parents, and community members to figure out what
more budget-cutting will look like. Last
month, he and his board came up with
several scenarios in case the state's legislature this summer cuts 2 or 5 percent
out of the district's budget.
"Be as clear as possible with district
leadership/key stakeholders around
what is being prioritized," Delgadillo
said. 'That is if we need to make 'X dollars worth of reductions,' we've already
done the pre-work and have a general
understanding of what the revised investment plan may look like."
"Chance favors the prepared mind."
- Louis Pasteur
"I have found the ideas and activities in
this book really useful in my online classes.
Adams and Hamm point out that something
is lost when we move from the actual to
the virtual classroom. Still, particularly in
emergencies, they see possibilities for
technology like Google Classroom, FaceTime
- Rebecca Angeles, Information &
Decision Sciences, University of
Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm take on
the challenge of making STEM instruction
interesting, while developing an instruction
style that will suit the needs of a wide range
of students. STEM curriculum is becoming
increasingly important to prepare students
for the future, and the book will help teachers
develop their curriculum to enable all of their
students to reach their full potential in the
- Charles Frisk, Wisconsin Science Teacher
EDUCATION WEEK | June 17, 2020 | www.edweek.org | 7
Education Week - June 17, 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 17, 2020
Education Week - June 17, 2020
Are America’s Schools Ready For Tough Talk on Racism?
Q&A: What’s Next for School Policing in Minneapolis
Schools Left Hanging as States Dither on Budget Cuts
The Socially Distanced School Day
Marny Xiong, School Board Chair and Social Justice Champion, Dies at 31 of COVID-19
Catholic School Closures Rise Amid Pandemic, Recession
Summer School Learning Plans On Shaky Ground
COVID-19 Forces the Question: Should the Youngest Learners Have Devices?
I Need More From Schools Than Lip Service About Racism
School Closures Always Hurt. They Hurt Even More Now
EdWeek Top School Jobs
For Teachers Who Understand Racism Is Real
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - Are America’s Schools Ready For Tough Talk on Racism?
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - Briefly Stated
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 3
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - Q&A: What’s Next for School Policing in Minneapolis
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 5
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 6
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - Schools Left Hanging as States Dither on Budget Cuts
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 8
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 9
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - The Socially Distanced School Day
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - Marny Xiong, School Board Chair and Social Justice Champion, Dies at 31 of COVID-19
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - Catholic School Closures Rise Amid Pandemic, Recession
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 13
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - Summer School Learning Plans On Shaky Ground
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 15
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - COVID-19 Forces the Question: Should the Youngest Learners Have Devices?
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 17
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - I Need More From Schools Than Lip Service About Racism
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - School Closures Always Hurt. They Hurt Even More Now
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 20
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 21
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - 22
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - June 17, 2020 - For Teachers Who Understand Racism Is Real