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Big-City Superintendents Call for Congress to Provide More Education Funding

  • A letter was signed recently by 62 urban school superintendents asking Congress to approve new federal funding for school systems to offset the financial impact districts are incurring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The letter to Capitol Hill was sent by the Council of the Great City Schools and called on Congress in the next coronavirus supplemental appropriations bill  to allocate $175 billion in Educational Stabilization Funds to be distributed to the local level through the Title I formula. The organization also urged Congress to provide an additional $13 billion for the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), $12 billion in additional Title I program funding, $2.0 billion for E-Rate, and emergency infrastructure funds that include public schools.  

    Since the closures of schools, big-city school districts across the nation have faced unexpected costs providing thousands of meals to students and transforming from school-based to home-based learning in the wake of school closures. The Council estimates that between March and May urban school districts have delivered 150 million meals and 3.2 million computer devices.

    And as aggressive as schools have been in providing instruction at a distance, districts continue to need resources to provide electronic learning devices and internet connections to every child.

    Because of declines in state and local revenues, significant revenue shortfalls are looming for local school systems, as well, with several big-city school districts projecting 15 to 25 percent cuts in overall revenues going into next school year. According to the Council, an estimated 20 percent loss in combined state and local revenues would likely result in thousands of teachers being laid off in big-city public school systems alone.

     “With additional federal funds, America’s public schools will be able to add summer school, expand the school day after reopening in the fall, retain and stabilize our teaching force, address the needs of our most vulnerable students, narrow the digital divide, and have a fighting chance at salvaging the futures of millions of young people,” said the letter.

    The letter received a great deal of news coverage, with stories featured in national publications such as the Washington Post, USA Today, Education Week, Politico and U.S. News & World Report. Stories also ran in newspapers and on television stations in several cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Albuquerque, Des Moines, Las Vegas, New York City and Orlando.

    The Tulsa World newspaper featured an editorial requesting that local school districts such as Tulsa Public Schools need federal help and that Congress needs to act on the requests by superintendents, which are reasonable and specific to programs for students most in need of support.

    “Superintendents have sounded the warning bell, and Congress needs to respond,” said the editorial.   

    School Boards Resolution Call for Federal Support

    A number of urban school boards across the country approved resolutions in support of the Council’s calling for federal stimulus funding of public education, including the Board of Education in Philadelphia. According to district officials, the Philadelphia school system has gone from a position of hard-earned financial stability to facing a projected $38 million funding shortfall for the 2020-21 academic year.

    “We ask that everyone stand together to protect public education in Philadelphia from devastating funding cuts due to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Board President Joyce Wilkerson in a press release announcing the resolution. “We must all call on our elected officials to maintain state funding levels at the 2019-2020 levels and to ensure that federal funding through the CARES Act supplements state funding but does not replace it.” 

    School boards in Cleveland, San Antonio, Boston, San Diego, Dayton, Albuquerque, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Tulsa, Anchorage, Clark County in Las Vegas, Jefferson County in Louisville, Guilford County in Greensboro, N.C., Portland, Ore., and Florida’s Broward County, Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County also approved resolutions requesting more federal education funding.