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’: 

  1. Economy: States, localities, and districts are facing overall rising costs, and those costs are frequently outpacing revenue growth.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Infographic with icons for each of the Six Es just described above

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.  

Interested in discussing the 6 Es in your context? Please contact Afton Senior Directors Heather Wendell and Kevin Wenzel to learn more about the work we do. We look forward to being in touch! 

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