How 2,100 districts & charters plan to spend COVID relief funds

Regional differences in spending highlight varying priorities. From summer learning to ventilation upgrades, here's a look at the spending plans.

In the South and Northeast, summer learning tops the list of how school districts and charter schools plan to spend their federal COVID relief money. In the West, it’s upgrades to ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems. In the Midwest, hiring and paying teachers and other academic staff emerge as top priorities. And while the internet is rife with stories about school districts using federal relief aid for athletic facilities and other seemingly extraneous expenses, the problem appears to be less prevalent than recent headlines would suggest.

These are among the findings of a FutureEd analysis of the COVID relief spending plans of nearly 2,100 local education agencies in 48 states serving some 40 percent of the nation’s public school students. (Tennessee local plans include funding from an earlier round of Covid-relief aid and South Carolina uses a unique set of spending categories. When possible, we include data from the two states in the FutureEd analysis. Georgia asked local agencies to combine spending on afterschool and summer learning into a single category, and many of the districts invested heavily in these priorities. Hence, when we calculated the average per-pupil spending on afterschool and summer programs combined, it jumped to $436, more than twice the average for afterschool and summer learning separately. )

The analysis covers districts and charter schools receiving $46 billion of the $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) under the federal American Rescue Plan as of Dec. 23 and offers the most comprehensive picture to date of local and regional COVID response spending. The information company Burbio gathered the local spending plans from a range of public sources and sorted the proposed spending into more than 100 categories.

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