In rural enclaves and city centers, in red states and blue, school districts share the same top priority for federal COVID relief aid: spending on teachers and other staff who can help students recover from the pandemic, academically and emotionally. Local education agencies are on pace to spend as much as $20 billion on instructional staff under the American Rescue Plan. In many places, the federal support comes on top of substantial state and local teacher investments.

To understand state and local policymakers’ strategies for bolstering teaching resources in the wake of the pandemic, FutureEd analyzed the COVID relief spending plans of 5,000 districts and charter organizations, representing 74% of the nation’s public school students. And we examined additional documents and conducted interviews to gauge how the nation’s 100 largest districts plan to reinforce their teaching ranks with the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER III).

The result is a comprehensive picture of state and local spending on the nation’s more than 3 million-member teaching force — including new hires, innovative ways to leverage top teachers, an emerging commitment to extra pay for longer hours and bonuses that break with traditional pay schedules to combat staff shortages. The challenges presented by the scale of the federal funding and the short window for spending it also emerged from the analysis.

We found seven significant spending trends.

  1. Expanded Staff
  2. Smaller Classes
  3. Recruitment
  4. Staff Retention
  5. Increased Workloads
  6. Improved Working Conditions
  7. New Skills, Knowledge

Read the full article about education funding and spending trends by Phyllis W. Jordan and Bella DiMarco at The 74.