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Keeping an Eye on COVID-19 Relief, the Education Workforce

Financial aid concept, Life buoy lifebelt with money bagThis blog post is written by AACTE consultant Jane West and is intended to provide updated information. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Educators Step Up for Racial Justice

Educators are responding to the killing of George Floyd and the racism it highlights by stepping up with a variety of initiatives and a renewed sense of urgency. Both the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Public Schools have cut their ties with the Minneapolis Police Department.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is urging school leaders to address racial disparities in discipline policies and the use of resource officers in response to the George Floyd killing and subsequent events. 

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 400 other organizations, including both teachers’ unions, issued a letter calling on Congress to pass police reform legislation. They urge changes in areas including the use of force, policy accountability, racial profiling, militarization, data collection, and training.

Many organizations have issued statements responding to the crisis, including the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and Learning Policy Institute (see links below.) AACTE CEO Lynn Gangone wrote:

“Collectively, we must disrupt these inequities by increasing and maintaining a diverse workforce, preventing the school-to prison pipeline, and encouraging white colleagues to align with their peers of color as allies and accomplices in speaking and acting against systemic and institutional racism. The responsibility to create change is on the shoulders of white allies. It has been on the backs of the Black community for far too long.”

CARES Act Implementation Proceeds/Proposals for Next COVID-19 Relief Bill Develop

Congress is keeping an eye on the implementation of the CARES Act as it prepares to construct the next COVID-19 relief package, which was initiated by the House as it passed the HEROES Act last month. Implementation of the CARES Act has generated a number of controversies in both higher education and K-12 education. Most prominent is Sec. DeVos’s focus on expanding federal funds for private schools through guidance she released. The National Coalition for Public Education led a letter from 50 civil rights, education, and disability organizations urging congressional leaders to pass legislation rescinding the guidance. In addition, they urge that any further COVID-19 relief legislation prevent such targeting of funds to private schools.  Undeterred, Sec. DeVos announced she will be issuing regulations on the topic in coming weeks.  Meanwhile some states are following the guidance and others are not. 

Last week over 100 House Democratic lawmakers urged that the next COVID relief bill include $305 billion for K-12 education in the state stabilization fund. The amount was based on estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They note that if there is a 25% reduction in state funding for schools, more than 580,000 education jobs will be eliminated. In the HEROES Act, passed by the House last month, only $90 billion was included for education, $58 billion of which was for local schools.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Education Workforce

A disturbing analysis from the Education Policy Institute concludes that job losses in April in education eclipse those from the great recession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, as of April, state and local government jobs fell by 981,000, with most losses in local government.  Most local government losses were in education, with 468,800 jobs lost in local public school employment. Furthermore, half of the job losses in K-12 public education between March and April were among special education teachers, tutors, and teaching assistants. 

While school districts are losing teachers, the prospects for the preparation of new teachers appears to be shrinking as well. AACTE reported on a survey of its members that indicates a shrinking supply of new teachers. The survey found that 23% of respondents expect a decline in continuing education student enrollment of more than 10%. Forty percent expect such a decline in new students. 

Education advocates will highlight these losses and their implications for student learning as they urge increased financial investment in education in the next COVID-19 relief bill due to be considered by the Senate in coming weeks.

Congressional Schedule for Appropriations

The pandemic has thrown the congressional schedule into disarray, as it has with most everything else. The House had initially announced a goal of passing all 12 FY 2021 funding bills by the end of June. That is now modified with the new goal of passing all bills by the end of July.  Subcommittee and full committee markups are expected to take place the week of July 6 with floor votes as soon as the weeks of July 20 and 27.  The Senate is looking to mark up several funding bills at the end of June and the remainder after the July 4 recess. Most education observers continue to predict a Continuing Resolution come September 30 when the fiscal year ends. 

Read the full Washington update on my website for more information. See you on Twitter at @janewestdc.

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant