School districts across country facing layoffs as federal funding windfalls wind down

33
1101

By BETHANY BLANKLEY | THE CENTER SQUARE

School districts across the country are laying off teachers, citing high inflationary costs, budget deficits, and federal COVID-era funding running out after receiving windfalls in federal subsidies for three years.

The federal COVID-era subsidies were funded through ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) grants administered by state education agencies. Financed through the CARES Act and supplemental appropriations, the grant funding expires Sept. 30.

In California, within one month, roughly 1,600 California public school teachers and staff received layoff notices – a “massive increase” from previous years, California Teachers Association president David Goldberg told the Orange County Register.

Recent announcements include Pasadena Unified School District’s cutting 200 jobs and Anaheim Union High School District cutting 100, citing declining enrollment, the end of ESSER funding and budget shortfalls, for example, according to news reports.

The number of total education job losses won’t be known until after the state legislature passes a budget in June. The budget shortfall varies: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s projected shortfall is $38 billion, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office’s is $73 billion.

In Arkansas, which has been grappling with a teacher shortage for years, the Little Rock School District began its first round of layoffs in February, citing declining enrollment, high construction costs, and high interest rates on debt payments, the Arkansas Times reported. This is after nearly 10% of teachers in the Arkansas public school system left the education workforce before the 2023-2024 school year, according to a recent state report.

In New York, school districts statewide are facing budget shortfalls and massive layoffs due to the governor’s proposed budget, which reduces public school funding by $400 million, News 12 Long Island reported. The Riverhead Central School District already announced it is cutting 38 teaching jobs due to “fiscal” reasons, citing $19 million in COVID money it already spent with no more relief money coming. Buffalo Public Schools announced it was cutting $90 million from its 2024-2025 budget citing the COVID relief money ending. This translates to roughly 310 fulltime job cuts.

In Maryland, the Howard County Public School System announced 348 jobs would likely be cut in order to balance its fiscal 2025 budget. With a $103 million budget shortfall and increasing costs, including 13.6% increases in employee health insurance costs alone, its acting superintendent said, “a significant portion of our budget is staff, we cannot address the structural financial challenges without impacting staff,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

In Massachusetts, Dighton-Rehoboth Superintendent of Schools Bill Runey articulated a fiscal crisis many states are facing: “inflation is at record highs” but state funding for public schools doesn’t account for it. “We are cutting positions, and other districts are cutting even more,” he said, the Taunton Daily Gazette reported. “COVID relief artificially boosted the budget,” he said, and loss of ESSER money and high inflationary costs created a “fiscal crisis.”

In Texas, Arlington ISD announced it is cutting 275 jobs funded by ESSER, including positions related to classroom support, mental health, tutoring and after-school care.

Fort Worth ISD also announced it was cutting 133 ESSER funded jobs. This is after the district cut 200 jobs and had a $80 million deficit in the 2022-2023 school year, the Fort Worth Report reported. Well before COVID money was funneled into schools, Fort Worth ISD’s school board for more than a decade voted to pass unbalanced budgets with deficits, the Fort Worth Report notes.

Despite rising property taxes and a $1.2 billion bond project approved by voters in 2021, the district kept increasing its budget beyond its revenue as it continued to lose students. The district has lost enrollment every year since 2017. Enrollment dropped by roughly 10% between 2019 and 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Education job losses are part of a predictable fiscal cliff, Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit consultant that works with school districts, warned last year.

ESSER allocated $190 billion nationwide over three years, accounting for between 4% and 7% of total education funding for each state, through a round of funding allocated by Congress (ESSER I, ESSER II, and ESSER III). ESSER funds were used to augment budgets impacted by declining student enrollment, increasing employee salaries and benefits, and widespread inflation, the group and others say. Some finance experts warned against districts using ESSER money to fund salaries knowing the funds would not last.

As federal funds augmented budgets, inflationary costs continued to skyrocket from insurance to electricity, food, supplies and other expenses.

School districts in some states were already facing severe enrollment losses, which directly impact funding formulas. “ESSER may have temporarily mitigated what would have otherwise been significant revenue loss in some districts. This means that districts with enrollment decline may face an even steeper cliff than anticipated,” ERS said.

Based on several factors, ERS identified 15 states that would suffer the most this year from ESSER losses. It also published a report to help districts identify ESSER fiscal cliff risks.

33 COMMENTS

  1. The one group not getting cut? The bloated administration. Clean them out, you’d be amazed at how much money becomes available. And how much more efficient schools could be run.

    This is also why accountability is fought so hard. Imagine if poor performance teachers were let go. Yes, the shortage would go up, but those left and those who enter will be better suited for the job.

    • MA, your intent is noble. However, the reality is our largest bureaucracy, public education, is corrupted to it’s core and cannot be reformed. Rather, parents must abandon it so it will wither away. But that will be difficult. Most taxpayers have faith in the corrupt bureaucracy. A great many embrace the woke agenda of allowing the government to take over the raising of their children. Of those who know better, most believe they cannot afford private or home schooling; or they are unwilling to make the needed sacrifices. However, these difficult options are the only hope we have.

      • Personally I’d like to see the system as it exists now be politically and structurally burnt to the ground.

        It does not work.

  2. Other odds things:

    -they should have known this money wasn’t gonna last. Did they think Grandpa Bloodstains was gonna magically take money from what he’s giving to Iran and give it to them? Not unless they can kick at least 10% to Bloodstains.

    -higher operating costs in a Democrat administration with rampant inflation? Oops. Elections have consequences for the teachers unions, too.

    • And just think that we voted the same school board people back for more.
      The property tax needs to be raised way up and then someone may notice.

  3. What’s the real problem? If we need strawberry pickers, we get strawberry pickers. If we need lettuce pickers, we get lettuce pickers. The same for medical doctors and nurses as with scientists and engineers: if we don’t have them we can get them. Certainly, if we can’t legislate our way out of ignorance and sloth, we sure the hell can buy our way out! For right now, however, let’s not rush to throw good money after bad!

  4. In Alaska we know our quality of public education is down. The budgeters went on like this ESSER money was not going to end. Every Alaskan should know that we sacrifice PFD dollars for our bottom of the barrel education dollar. Eventually we will overcome the monopoly of our current academia.

  5. Good. That’s more government people realizing this country can’t live off Government jobs. That’s not where is wealth made. Unfortunately that’s more job competition for private sector jobs when private sector work is declining. If I was a government or non profit employee I’d leave NOW! To establish myself into the private sector before that chance goes away. Time is ticking like God’s judgement on America is nearing

  6. Why did the corrupt Dirt doctor Snyder buy a bodega and operating a small business in Florida instead of going into government work as she did here. She is building capital and situating herself and her corrupt husband better.

  7. “Despite rising property taxes and a $1.2 billion bond project approved by voters in 2021, the [Ft. Worth] district kept increasing its budget beyond its revenue as it continued to lose students. The district has lost enrollment every year since 2017. Enrollment dropped by roughly 10% between 2019 and 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported.” – Sound familiar Anchorage? If the zombie voters would stop and shop for less expensive candidates like they do their grocery meats, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. And, yes – they renewed their favor for Wilson & Jacobs in the ASD School Board Seats. Sexualization of children, anyone? At a very HIGH price.

  8. Very simple solution: lay off administration, save the teachers; lay off woke programs and counselors, teach the 3 Rs. Refuse to bloat programs and admin next time federal windfall shows up. Get woke politics out of our schools! Taxed Enough Already!

    • If you keep any unionized teachers you must tie their salaries to the independent test scores of their students. Humans never perform as well as they do when in competition.

  9. The districts chose to use one-time federal funds to hire more bodies where they could not with prior existing budgets and spent existing budget elsewhere with this false savings. The districts made this mess and now have to deal with it by cutting positions, programs or both.

    Not our fault you didn’t use the federal dollars wisely. We shouldn’t have to provide more money/bonds or increase the base student allocation rate to account of loss of students and replace mismanaged one-time federal funds to hire more staff.

  10. > School districts across country facing layoffs

    Good. Anything to break the teachers unions power is a positive event for all- esp. kids.

  11. I’m sure most of these positions were hired during the “flush with cash” years and again, most are probably some to some sort of DEI related programs anyway. No big loss. With homeschooling, charter and private schools, the public education system is on a downward spiral and will continue to be until our society decides that education is once again in the forefront, not social issues.

    • Charter shools are essentially private schools funded by public money. The largest component of students in charter schools are children of school district employees and their relatives. Don’t take my word for it, do your research.

  12. The Federal Covid funding masked the eroding effects of inflation on our Education system. Our Governor places greater value on a guaranteed basic income, than learning reading, writing and arithmetic.

  13. Well, when the US Federal Government hands out temporary funding, why do you use it to hire permanent positions?
    Stupidity on display. Morons think they will continue to receive temporary funding permanently? Or do they think the local population will take up the costs? Actually, I suspect they had no plan whatsoever. They likely just assumed they could keep the positions on somehow…

  14. Districts in AK were warned this was one time funding but educators for years have ignored such warnings. They are told NOT to hire new employees without the ability to pay for them long-term. Instead they do just that and then scream, ‘we need more money!” In fact ASD school teachers were given a pay raise with this money and now don’t know where the money will come from to keep them. This continues the long term problem with education because of the lack of accountability. Just like legislative efforts to hand educators 1/4 billion dollars a year and NO accountability. Please continue to contact your legislators to stand strong against such incompetency.

  15. Something the educational industrial complex ignores is just how much their credibility suffered during Covid.

    Only the progressives and the hard core democrats (did I repeat myself) have a favorable opinion of the profession or its employees.

  16. Declining enrollment nationwide. People are waking up and pulling their children out of public schools as they are no longer schools, they’e indoctrination centers.

  17. I for one think that this is going to become a more common issue regarding money from the federal government. Think about highway funding for a minute. If you want the federal money you have to build to federal specs. As time marches on and the guidelines become increasingly stringent as well as expensive, people will rebel at an increase in fuel taxes to pay for it all. I’m hoping that folks start to wake up to the cost of interest alone (current interest rate on the debt is 3.22%) on the federal deficit goes up. Currently the interest paid on the federal debt is $659,000,000,000 annually while the taxes we pay amounts to $4,700,000,000,000. ‘https://www.usdebtclock.org/#
    Around 15% of the taxes we pay are used for interest payments on the debt but nothing appears to be going toward the principal.

Comments are closed.