How Blue States & Red States Use COVID Relief Funds Differently to Aid Schools

Recently in The 74, Bella Dimarco and Phyllis Jordan reviewed the ESSER spending pattern of different states, according to their political persuasion. Excerpts from the piece appear below:

As school districts have decided how to spend billions in federal Covid-relief aid, there has been more convergence on priorities—and even a few surprises, according to a FutureEd analysis of 5,000 school districts and charter organizations’ plans for spending some $75 billion in federal aid, a sample compiled by the data-services firm Burbio and representing three-quarters of the nation’s public-school students from every state.

Nearly the same percentage of local education agencies in red and blue states have earmarked Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ESSER III) for social-emotional learning. And both have made hiring and rewarding teachers their top priority and plan to spend at similar rates on tutoring, teacher training, and new school infrastructure.

What’s more, red states are actually more likely than blue states to earmark funds for teacher bonuses and student assessments—counterintuitive findings given many conservatives’ opposition to testing in recent years and their fraught relationship with the teaching profession.

There are many factors that can influence how a local education agency decides to divvy up its allotment of federal Covid-relief funds, and just as many reasons for districts and charters to change their plans over the past year. But the key priorities–hiring and keeping good staff members, supporting students academically and emotionally, and upgrading facilities–remain remarkably consistent regardless of political persuasion.

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