School districts across the country have experienced massive systemic changes over the past few years. However, much of this disruption has been masked by one-time pandemic relief funds in the national conversation – and in budgets. As those funds end, states and districts will need to tackle the resulting challenges head on.
At Afton, we’ve referred to these interrelated challenges in a framework called ‘the Six Es’:
- Economy: States, localities, and districts are facing overall rising costs, and those costs are frequently outpacing revenue growth.
- ESSER: Many states and districts used one-time pandemic relief funds to cover recurring, increasing costs, but these funds are slated to end this year while the costs remain.
- Employees: Educator talent is more difficult than ever to find and competitively compensate, which can be especially challenging for roles and locations that have seen long-standing shortages.
- Enrollment: States and districts are experiencing uneven enrollment changes, complicating district revenue in the short-term, and enrollment is likely to continue to decline overall in the long-term.
- Exceptional Needs: Although overall enrollment trends are down, the share of students with greater special education needs, language learner needs, mental health needs, and learning loss needs is rising.
- Expectations: Increased needs have led to changing community expectations of the role of schools, and a desire for a higher level of baseline services at all schools.
States and districts will need to rely on one another to address these challenges:
- States need strong districts to provide the best possible experience for all their students.
- Districts need states to support their work by providing clear expectations and equitable, adequate, and sustainable funding and systemic solutions.
As both plan for the near- and long-term, neither can do it without the other. Understanding your unique state and district “6E context” is foundational to creating strong policies and programs as we move forward in 2024.