Education Finance Takes Center Stage Amid Fiscal Uncertainty

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Quality Counts’ annual deep dive into school finance might seem like a specialty project—crucial for the brass who keep the fiscal ship afloat in their school districts, but overshadowed by the day-to-day challenges of teaching, learning, and student safety that seem to dominate the K-12 education discussion.

Not this year.

As it has with every aspect of society, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens K-12 finances to an unprecedented degree. School administrators and state policymakers face the prospect of devastating budget cuts, layoffs, and programmatic retrenchment even as they wrestle with how to safely reopen their virus-shuttered schools.

They can’t make these decisions in a vacuum. School leaders need a clear picture of the resources in hand and what they can learn from those who have confronted past financial downturns—and survived.

“Quality Counts 2020: School Finance” aims to address all of these needs.

In his lead article, Education Week school finance reporter Daarel Burnette II, who has been covering the fiscal impact of the pandemic for months, shares advice from district leaders and school finance experts on navigating this crisis, informed by lessons from the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its aftermath.

Scores, Rankings

Undergirding that analysis is the EdWeek Research Center’s school finance scorecard—a roundup of how the nation and the states rank on a wealth of school-spending and funding-equity yardsticks, informed by the most-recent federal data. As they chart the path forward, school leaders can use this data as a historical baseline for prudently and fairly allocating their scarce public education dollars.

And in an exclusive look at how district leaders view the fiscal challenges they face in the weeks and months ahead, this report includes survey results from the EdWeek Research Center digging into how they think the financial downturn will affect school systems in immediate and concrete ways.

Looking ahead, this report will be followed in September by “Quality Counts 2020: Grading the States,” our annual report card capturing all facets of the Quality Counts grading template: school finance; the Chance for Success Index weighing the education system’s impact on lifetime prospects; and a host of academic achievement indicators.

And be sure to follow Education Week online and in print for continuing coverage of how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting and reshaping the nation’s public education landscape, and how teachers, administrators, and policymakers are rising to the challenge.

—The Editors

Vol. 39, Issue 33, Page 16

Published in Print: June 3, 2020, as Education Finance Takes Center Stage
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