What the End of Pandemic Funding May Mean for Your School

Money and a laptop to represent school funding
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The pandemic changed much about how students and teachers saw education. Remote teaching, communication applications, and connectivity services became extremely important to keep students and teachers engaged in the learning process while school buildings were shuttered. 

With this emphasis on remote learning and digital tools, emergency pandemic funding was an important part of keeping students and teachers safely connected. However, there is a deadline for using the pandemic funding, and it is quickly approaching.

What Does The End of Pandemic Funds Mean for Your School?

If your school or district still has funding provided by a pandemic relief initiative, Susan Gentz, COO and Senior Consultant at K20Connect, says that it will go back to the powers that be once the September 30, 2024, deadline passes.

“If a district doesn’t have [obligated funds] contracted, it will be returned to the federal government,” says Gentz. “The government might create an educational grant with the returned funds, but most likely it will probably just go back to the Treasury to be reallocated somewhere else.”

According to Gentz, the main issue schools may face come the pandemic funding deadline is sustainability.

“Right now, there are tons of programs that were started,” she says. “And the scariest part about the education landscape is that this was a huge experiment. Did we collect enough data to evaluate how well these things work?”

In some cases, there is little information about what the pandemic spending actually went toward.

“That’s a big concern–how funds were spent in many districts,” Gentz says. “The category was marked as ‘other.’ So, what does that mean? What did we actually spend those dollars on? There are a few states that did really well with [spending] transparency and accountability, but only a few.”

How Spending May Look Moving Forward 

Depending on what items take priority when the time comes, some important learning tools might end up on the chopping block. Gentz makes it clear that these decisions will not be easy. However, some due diligence can make the process easier.

“Districts are going to have to make hard decisions,” she says. “Hopefully, they were somehow evaluating these things. A program that may be producing positive results could be kept and cuts could be made elsewhere. But if they were not keeping track [of program performance] it may just come down to a matter of whether the funding exists to keep the program. In some cases it might just be easier to go back to the way things were versus finding new cuts to be made.”

Funding and Its Connection to Chronic Absenteeism 

Funding also impacts how teachers are hired or retained in their schools. But it might not be a simple matter of having the money to pay a teacher. As Gentz points out, there might also be a connection between chronic absenteeism and teacher availability.

“So the teacher shortage is real,” she says “But what’s also been really interesting with that is chronic absenteeism. We don’t know where a lot of students went. We don’t have that information either. And that impacts how many teachers you need. We’re seeing this in rural and urban hard-to-fill districts. In those two demographic areas, we’re seeing the most chronic absenteeism in students. It will be interesting to see how those districts start making those decisions when the time comes.”

While the end of pandemic funding might create some challenges for certain districts, it will also shine a massive spotlight on the programs and hardware that works and those that don’t. This will cause serious considerations to be made about what survives the deadlines and, more importantly, what the resulting budget is spent on going forward.

Michael Millington
Senior Staff Writer

Michael Millington is a senior staff writer for Tech & Learning. A writer and editor with over a decade of experience, his focus on bringing actionable information to those in need is the driving force behind his work. When not researching new advancements in technology, Michael likes to practice his Italian and train his dog Cyril.