Survey finds district leaders want more time to maximize federal investments and are planning ahead for September 2024, when funding expires.

District leaders outline top 3 COVID relief funding priorities

Survey finds district leaders want more time to maximize federal investments and are planning ahead for September 2024, when relief funding expires

School districts continue to prioritize expanding summer learning and enrichment offerings, adding specialist staff such as mental health personnel and reading specialists, and investing in high-quality instructional materials and curriculum, according to a survey administered by AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

The School District Spending of American Rescue Plan report is part of a multi-series survey focused on how district leaders across the country are utilizing American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, address student learning recovery.

This survey also sought information about what issues districts are experiencing in spending ARP funding and how they would change their spending decisions if they had more time to drawdown federal COVID-relief funds.

“Superintendents know best how to maximize the academic impact of the funding. It costs nothing for Congress to give districts additional time to extend the additional resources they have in place—reading specialists, tutoring programs, enrichment offerings and social-emotional supports—for students for an additional two years,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director. “We call on Congress to extend this arbitrary deadline and enable students to get the additional time with these professionals and programs they need to recover from the pandemic.”

Districts’ ARP spending priorities have remained consistent from the 2021-2022 school year to the 2022-2023 school year. Improving instructional practices, expanding learning opportunities and learning time, hiring staff and addressing the social-emotional needs of students remain top priorities of public school system leaders, regardless of state, district size or locale.

Three top priorities:

  • District leaders continue to report they are using ARP funding for long-term system changes that will prioritize a shift in expanding whole child supports, including social, emotional, mental, and physical health and development of their students.
  • Their second long-term priority in 2022 is also the same as 2021: engaging high school students who have fallen off the track to graduate and who need additional supports to navigate the transition to college and career.
  • The report also details how spending on districts’ third long-term priority –renovating school facilities and improving ventilation—continues to be hampered by the lack of federal guidance on whether districts will be able to extend the timeline for these projects, which have been stymied by supply-chain issues, worker shortages and inflation. Forty-eight percent indicate the 2024 deadline presents an obstacle to completing these critical projects.

Superintendents also predicted what areas they would be forced to cut in September 2024 when the deadline for spending ARP funding occurs. Fifty-seven percent reported they will decrease, or end, summer learning and enrichment offerings currently being provided to students. Fifty-three percent reported they will have to end contracts with specialist staff, such as counselors, social workers and reading specialists, to support student needs. Forty-four percent reported they will have to stop compensating staff for working additional hours for the extended school year/day programming they offer.

Approximately half (49%) of respondents reported that a later deadline to spend ARP funding would allow them to retain recently hired staff and extend recently added programs and supports for students that are making a big difference, both in learning recovery efforts and in addressing the social-emotional needs of students.

Click here to read part three of the AASA ARP Funding survey. Hundreds of superintendents responded to the survey, which was issued in July.

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Laura Ascione
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