The Council of the Great City Schools, the nation’s primary coalition of large urban public-school districts, sent a letter (4.28.20) urging Congress to approve $175 billion in additional Educational Stabilization Funds as part the next Coronavirus supplemental appropriations bill to be distributed to the local level through the Title I formula. Additionally, the group requested $13 billion for the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), $12 billion in additional Title I program funding, $2.0 billion for E-Rate, and emergency infrastructure funds that include public schools. This request represents a total of $202 billion.
Signed by 62 big-city superintendents, including six from Florida, the letter warns federal lawmakers that while districts across the nation have stepped up to provide meals, switched to uninterrupted home-based learning, provided internet access and devices without any additional funding, the looming decline in state and local revenue spells 15% to 25% cuts in overall revenues for the 2020-21 school year. A 20% loss in combined state and local revenues could spell the layoff of 275,000 teachers in big-city public school systems alone.
Key concerns from the letter include:
- $13.5 billion in the CARES Act only offsets the unexpected costs incurred providing student meals and establishing home instruction. ($173M to Florida)
- Dark Cloud Disaster looms – Congress must intervene: 40% to 50% of school district revenues come from local sources expected to plummet in the months ahead, combined with steep decline in state revenues could mean 15% to 25% overall cuts for the 2020-21 school year.
- During the 2008-09 recession, Congress allocated $100 billion in education funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), plus an additional $10 billion in 2010 for an Education Jobs Fund to help school districts retain existing employees, recall former employees, and hire new ones.
- Situation is far more dire than 2008-09. Budget cuts mean teacher layoffs, ballooning class sizes & remaining teaching staff will likely be redeployed into classes and subjects that they may not be used to teaching—all at a time when they will be asked to address unprecedented unfinished learning from the last school year.
April 28, 2020
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer:
The Council of the Great City Schools, the nation’s primary coalition of large urban public school districts, writes to urge you in the strongest possible terms to approve new funding for local school systems in the next coronavirus supplemental appropriations bill. The Great City Schools support an additional federal allocation of $175 billion in Educational Stabilization Funds distributed to the local level through the Title I formula. We also urge Congress to provide an additional $13 billion for IDEA, $12 billion in additional Title I program funding, $2.0 billion for E-Rate, and emergency infrastructure funds that include public schools.
The down payment you made in our public education system by allocating some $13.5 billion in the CARES Act for our schools was a critical lifeline for public education in this country. But we now urge you to provide a second, substantially larger installment for public school systems as you work on the fourth supplemental appropriations bill.
The initial allocation will help offset the unexpected costs we are incurring in providing meal services to our students and reestablishing instruction. Our public schools, in major cities and elsewhere, have stepped up to the challenge on very short order to revamp our operations and instructional systems to help meet the unexpected health threats that the nation now confronts. In the first chaotic days of the crisis, with no promise of any aid, our schools organized to
provide meals to millions of students and families, set up drop-off points, arranged home deliveries, and distributed meals at homeless shelters and to students on the street. This work continues today, even as our staff and volunteers have contracted COVID-19. Your assistance will help sustain these vital efforts.
On the instructional side, our schools are providing instructional packets and making a rapid transformation from school-based to home-based learning. Lesson plans have been written and sent home with meals. Thousands of electronic devices are being purchased and distributed. Hot spots are being set up. Virtual instruction is being provided in many places alongside traditional although remote instruction, and teachers are being trained in how to teach from a distance. To be sure, school districts have a way to go before these instructional changes and online delivery systems are as effective for all students as they need to be. But
the energy, dedication, and sense of urgency that have gone into these efforts have been nothing short of extraordinary.
At the same time, dark clouds are forming on the educational horizon that will spell disaster if Congress does not intervene. Significant revenue shortfalls are looming for local school districts that will exacerbate the disruption students have already faced. Some 40 to 50 percent of school district revenues, in fact, come from local sources that are expected to drop precipitously in the months ahead. This revenue decline will come on top of revenue losses in the months to come
from state sources that have been more widely reported. Several big city school districts are now projecting 15 to 25 percent cuts in overall revenues going into next school year.
We are alarmed by these projections because we’ve seen them before. Similar losses occurred during the 2008-09 recession. At that time, Congress stepped up with nearly $100 billion in education funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). While not compensating for all losses at the time, ARRA provided an essential infusion of funds that allowed local school systems to rebuild their instructional and operational capacity. As local revenues declined further, Congress then approved an additional $10 billion in 2010 for an Education Jobs Fund to help school districts retain existing employees, recall former employees, and hire new ones.
The situation now, however, is far more severe and promises to cause much more substantial damage. Unlike in 2008 and 2009, schools nationwide had to close in mid-March and will likely stay shuttered through the balance of the school year. As aggressive as schools have been in providing instruction at a distance, districts continue to need resources to provide electronic learning devices and internet connections to every child. The amount of time devoted each day to lessons is less now than what would occur in a regular classroom. Students’ ability to interact with their teachers remains limited. Some teachers will have little more than a crash course on how to conduct online learning. And, the research on the efficacy of virtual learning is not particularly strong. The truth is that there is simply no substitute for students being with their teachers all day.
The result, coming out of this school year, will be substantial unfinished learning for many students. On top of the predictable summer learning loss, vast numbers of students will be entering the next school year substantially behind academically—at exactly the time when budget cuts due to local and state revenue shortfalls will be occurring.
These budget cuts will mean teaching staff will be laid off, class sizes will balloon, and remaining teaching staff will likely be redeployed into classes and subjects that they may not be used to teaching—all at a time when they will be asked to address unprecedented unfinished learning from the last school year. An estimated 20 percent loss in combined state and local revenues would likely result in some 275,000 teachers being laid off in big city public school systems alone. The ramifications are not only profound for the students involved, but for the nation. This educational catastrophe could weaken the country’s economic foundation for years to come without significant financial support from Congress.
In fact, multiple economic studies have shown that there is a direct connection between a country’s GDP growth and its investments in elementary and secondary education. Research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), for example, has concluded that, “For 15 OECD countries, 38 percent of the variance in (economic) growth-rate changes can be explained by test score changes.” Another NBER study found that, “Increasing (educational)
spending by 10 percent for all school-age years increased wages by 7.25 percent each year.” And another study published in the American Economic Journal concluded that roughly 20 to 30 percent of variation in state GDP per capita was attributable to variations in knowledge capital. Finally, public education is one of the largest employers in the nation, dwarfing many private sector companies. In other words, investing in education is one of the best investments the country can make, not only for the success of its citizens but for its overall long-term viability. Sustaining and increasing educational spending now not only saves jobs in the short-run; it ensures economic strength and stability in the long-run.
With additional federal funds, America’s public schools will be able to add summer school, expand the school day after reopening in the fall, retain and stabilize our teaching force, address the needs of our most vulnerable students, narrow the digital divide, and have a fighting chance at salvaging the futures of millions of young people. Moreover, your investment in education will help save the country long term. We hope you recognize the importance of your investment in the nation’s public schools and work to ensure that the country remains strong in the aftermath of this crisis. Thank you.
Eric Gordon, Chair of the Board, Council of the Great City Schools and CEO, Cleveland Metropolitan Public Schools
Barbara Jenkins, Secretary/Treasurer Council of the Great City Schools and Superintendent, Orange County (FL) Public Schools
Raquel Reedy, Superintendent Albuquerque Public Schools
Deena Bishop, Superintendent Anchorage School District
Meria Carstarphen, Superintendent Atlanta Public Schools
Paul Cruz, Superintendent Austin Independent School District
Rico Munn, Superintendent Aurora (CO) Public Schools
Sonja Santelises, Chief Executive Officer Baltimore City Public Schools
Brenda Cassellius, Superintendent Boston Public Schools
Michael J. Testani, Superintendent Bridgeport Public Schools
Robert Runcie, Superintendent Broward County Public Schools
Kriner Cash, Superintendent Buffalo Public Schools
Earnest Winston, Superintendent Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools
Janice Jackson, Chief Executive Officer Chicago Public Schools
Laura Mitchell, Superintendent Cincinnati Public Schools
Jesus Jara, Superintendent Clark County School District
Talisa Dixon, Superintendent/CEO Columbus City (OH) Public Schools
Michael Hinojosa, Superintendent Dallas Independent School District
Elizabeth Lolli, Superintendent Dayton Public Schools
Susana Cordova, Superintendent Denver Public Schools
Tom Ahart, Superintendent Des Moines Public Schools
Lewis Ferebee, Chancellor District of Columbia Public Schools
Diana Greene, Superintendent Duval County Public Schools
Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent Detroit Public Schools Community District
Juan Cabrera, Superintendent El Paso Independent School District
Kent Scribner, Superintendent Fort Worth Independent School District
Robert Nelson, Superintendent Fresno Unified School District
Sharon Contreras, Superintendent Guilford County Public Schools
Grenita Lathan, Superintendent Houston Independent School District
Aleesia Johnson, Superintendent Indianapolis Public Schools
Errick Greene, Superintendent Jackson (MS) Public Schools
Martin Pollio, Superintendent Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools
Mark Beddell, Superintendent Kansas City (MO) Public Schools
Christopher J. Steinhauser, Superintendent Long Beach Unified School District
Austin Beutner, Superintendent Los Angeles Unified School District
Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Keith Posley, Superintendent Milwaukee Public Schools
Ed Graff, Superintendent Minneapolis Public Schools
Roger Leon, Superintendent Newark Public Schools
Richard Carranza, Chancellor New York City Department of Education
Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent Oakland Unified School District
Sean McDaniel, Superintendent Oklahoma City Public Schools
Cheryl Logan, Superintendent Omaha Public Schools
Donald E. Fennoy II, Superintendent Palm Beach County Public Schools
William Hite, Superintendent School District of Philadelphia
Michael Grego, Superintendent Pinellas County Public Schools
Guadalupe Guerrero, Superintendent Portland (OR) Public Schools
Anthony Hamlet, Superintendent Pittsburgh Public Schools
Harrison Peters,Superintendent Providence Public Schools
Jason Kamras, Superintendent Richmond (VA) Public Schools
Jorge Aguilar, Superintendent Sacramento City Unified School District
Pedro Martinez, Superintendent San Antonio Unified School District
Cindy Marten, Superintendent San Diego Unified School District
Vincent Matthews, Superintendent San Francisco Unified School District
Jerry Almendarez, Superintendent Santa Ana Unified School District
Denise Juneau, Superintendent Seattle Public Schools
Joris M. Ray, Superintendent Shelby County Public Schools
Kelvin Adams, Superintendent St. Louis Public Schools
Joe Gothard, Superintendent St. Paul Public Schools
John Deasy, Superintendent Stockton Unified School District
Romules Durant, Superintendent Toledo Public Schools
Deborah Gist, Superintendent Tulsa Public Schools
Michael Casserly, Executive Director Council of the Great City Schools