Decisions and priorities for funding
Immediate funding needs
Any new funding will help make up for some of the money being lost to cuts in state budgets this fiscal year and next.
Schools will need to spend more on technology, cleaning and personal protection supplies, transportation and telehealth, despite funding cuts.
Immediate technology needs for wider broadband reach and devices for students will be urgent. Task force members also mentioned special education, extending the school year, and summer reading programs.
Systematic, strategic use of funds
Establishing strategic priorities is essential, task force members say, because there will not be enough funding to fill all needs. Systems thinking is more important than ever. Funding should be used to support the vision and priorities set by the state or district.
Mississippi will offer districts guidance on where funding may be spent and how to prioritize local needs, including a needs assessment to determine technology needs for online instruction.
One priority mentioned by many members: Support for vulnerable groups of students to narrow opportunity gaps and especially to keep those gaps from widening.
Members also suggested creating initiatives that can be sustained after funding — especially CARES Act money — expires.
Services to scale during the pandemic
Across the board, task force members know they need to add capacity for nursing and social emotional learning. This will require more funding than in previous years, and funding will need to be reallocated.
- Remote learning and training for teachers
- Meals for students and even for the broader community
- Child care, especially in rural areas, if child care programs don’t reopen and school schedules are nontraditional
Listening and engaging
All states expressed the imperative to engage families, students, educators, staff and other stakeholders to understand local priorities rather than imposing a top-down approach.
State agencies are focusing on deadlines and requirements for funding streams so they may guide districts and schools to meet them.
Alabama’s application for CARES Act funds will help districts be strategic and thoughtful about how to spend money.
A calendar of funding and budget actions
Complete waivers for carryover funds
Seek additional grant opportunities under the CARES Act
Understand the different funding sources and how they can be spent
New state fiscal year funding
Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund money, a portion of the CARES Act
Fill teaching positions
Fill staff positions, including bus drivers
Plan professional development based on immediate needs
Federal funding carryover spending plan