Survey: Pa. School officials overwhelmingly say they will use COVID relief money to fill a year of lost learning | Tuesday Morning Coffee

June 15, 2021 6:56 am
Teacher and students in a classroom.

(Getty Images)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Nearly nine in 10 school officials statewide (87.7 percent) say they plan to use $6 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money to fill the gaps created by a year of lost learning and to purchase the technology to assist in that learning, according to a new survey.

The poll of hundreds of school superintendents and business managers by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials concludes that “while the optimism and expectations are high, there will be hard work over the next several years as school districts build and implement careful plans to leverage this historic federal investment.

“There is some trepidation amongst school leaders as they prepare to spend these one-time funds: trepidation  regarding the sustainability of programs and resources following the expiration of federal funds, trepidation regarding the strict time frames and spending constraints posed by the funds, and trepidation regarding their ability to meaningfully provide the necessary supports and programs for their students,” the survey’s executive summary reads.

Since 2020, Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts have received three infusions of aid across two presidential administrations. Districts received $523 million in assistance through the CARES Act in March 2020. They received a further $2 billion in aid in December 2020 through a supplemental appropriation.

In March, as part of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, districts received a further $4.5 billion in assistance. Districts are required to target at least 20 percent of the ARP funds toward learning loss.

In all three instances, the money was channeled through what’s known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, according to the PASBO report.

Nearly half of all the survey’s respondents (48 percent) said they planned to use 20 percent or less of the federal assistance to target learning loss.

Twenty-two percent of respondents said they planned to channel 21 percent to 30 percent of the federal assistance toward learning loss. Eleven percent said they planned to use between 31 percent to 40 percent of the money for that purpose, while just 3 percent said they planned to use 51 percent to 60 percent of the money to fill learning gaps, according to the PASBO report.

Here’s the full breakdown of survey responses:

  • Purchasing educational technology for students to aid in regular classroom instruction: 87.67 percent
  • Addressing learning loss among students: 87.67 percent
  • Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs: 85.84 percent
  • Providing technology/internet access for online learning to all students: 77.63 percent
  • Providing mental health services and supports: 70.32 percent
  • Facility repairs/improvements to enable operation/reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards: 63.47 percent
  • Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities: 65.30 percent
  • Activities necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services and continuing to employ existing staff of the [local education agency]: 52.51 percent
  • Activities to address the unique needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth: 42.47 percent
  • Providing assistive technology or adaptive equipment for low-income students and children with disabilities: 31.96 percent
  • Developing strategies and implementing public health protocols for the reopening and operation of school facilities: 30.14 percent
  • Training and professional development for staff on sanitation/minimizing the spread of infectious diseases: 27.40 percent
  • Providing meals to eligible students; inclusive of decisions to feed all students: 26.94 percent
  • Other: 7.31 percent

“The 2021-22 school year is expected to look significantly different than this past year and hopefully much closer to normal for most students and staff,” the report reads. “That said, the challenges facing school districts and other [local education agencies] have not disappeared. Just like everything else during the pandemic, the issues have evolved, and while health and safety concerns have been mitigated, the needs of students and the complexities of financing public education have never been greater.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
The illegal skill games — which are often untaxed — were the topic of a Monday Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee public hearing on the future of gaming in Pennsylvania, Marley Parish reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed Monday to pour tens of millions of dollars from an initiative combating climate change back into communities set to lose out on the transition to a green economy, our summer intern, Shaniece Holmes-Brown reports.

With funding for the state’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement on the brink, supporters say it’s time for a ‘yes vote’ on licensing fee increases, Cassie Miller reports.

The campaign for the next president of the Philadelphia NAACP is underway as the office’s current leader, Rodney Muhammad, said he won’t seek another term in the July election over his controversial posting of an anti-Semitic social media meme, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Pennsylvania may be reopening, but the state’s nursing homes need help this budget season, an industry advocate writes. And a West Chester University alum argues the case for rejecting a plan to consolidate six state System of Higher Education universities into two, regional campuses.

En la Estrella-Capital: En Pittsburgh, el Centro Comunitario Latino está ayudando a las familias latinas locales a vacunarse, por Presente: Pittsburgh Latino Magazine.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, of Pennsylvania. (Flickr Commons photo)

Pennsylvania Republicans have a path to victory in 2022 – but pro-Trump candidates may not follow it, the Inquirer reports.
State House Republicans are getting ready to do battle with the Democratic Wolf administration over election reform, the Post-Gazette reports.
The Harrisburg public schools have hired a new superintendent: It’s Reading High School Principal Eric Truman, PennLive reports.
More than 100 protesters marched Monday, demanding that Lancaster General Hospital rescind its COVID-19 vaccine policy, LancasterOnline reports (paywall).
Members of Luzerne County Council are interviewing candidates for the vacant county manager position, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day.

A Democratic lawmaker from West Philadelphia wants to get tough on crime. Colleagues have described the bill as ‘terrifyingly awful,’ WHYY-FM reports.
WITF-FM has its own look at the coming fight over election reform.
A state Senate committee on Monday approved a special report recommending changes in election laws, USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau reports.
Erie County has surpassed a 50 percent vaccination benchmark, GoErie reports.
Former President Donald Trump has targeted Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Senate State Government Committee Chairman Dave Argall, R-Schuylkill, over an audit of 2020 election results in the state, PoliticsPA reports.
Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall has some thoughts on the end of the Netanyahu era.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m., the Senate at 1 p.m.
10 a.m, Capitol Steps: Pa. CASA honors its volunteers
10:30 a.m., Media Center: Sens. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, and Tim Kearney, D-Delaware, join Education Voters of Pa., on a call to fund Nellie Bly scholarships.
12 p.m., Capitol Steps: Healthcare workers rally for more support for long-term care patients and workers in this year’s state budget
4 p.m, Irvis Lawn: The monument at 4th and Walnut Streets will be designated a Global Heritage site

Gov. Tom Wolf, joined by legislative allies, rolls out this session’s version of the Pa. Fairness Act, which would ban LGBTQ+ discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation. The event takes place at 9:15 a.m. on the Capitol steps.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Hope you limbered up your checkbooks, people. It’s a busy day.
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Craig Williams
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Leanne Krueger
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Dan Williams
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Jack Rader
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Elder Vogel
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. John Galloway
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Andrew Lewis
11:30 a.m.: Luncheon for Sen. Michele Brooks
5 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Pat Stefano
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Matt Bradford
6 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ed Gainey
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out an absolute nauseating $35,300 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John E. Wetzel and to reader Tony Heyl, both of whom celebrate today. Congrats and enjoy the day, gents.

Heavy Rotation.
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Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Vegas’ Marc Andre Fleury made 28 saves as the Golden Knights took Game 1 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series against Montreal, beating the Habs 4-1 on Monday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.