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Caught in a Financial ‘Triple Squeeze,’ Districts Could See Annual Costs of $2,500 Per Student to Address Pandemic-Related Learning Loss

Linda Jacobson, The 74 |

Conducted by Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit consulting firm that works with districts on financial issues, the projections account for the kind of “high-dosage” tutoring needed for students who have fallen the furthest behind and hiring more staff devoted to schoolwide social-emotional learning efforts.

Districts are caught in a “triple squeeze” of rising costs, flat or declining revenues and increased student needs, according to the paper, which was shared with The 74 in advance of its expected publication Wednesday. The calculations — which apply generally to urban and countywide districts with large concentrations of poverty — could serve as a guide as governors and state lawmakers begin to consider budgets for the 2021-22 school year. 

The costs, roughly $2,500 per year, follow recent research showing that while declines in student performance weren’t as steep as predicted earlier, the students expected to be the most impacted by school closures didn’t even take tests that would determine where they stand.

“We wanted to broaden people’s perspective on what the full cost of COVID is,” said Jonathan Travers, a partner at the firm and a co-author of the paper with Tiffany Zhou, a principal associate. He said they were concerned that conversations among district leaders and policymakers focused more on immediate technology needs, masks, sanitation costs and the loss of state revenue — all of which are “dwarfed in comparison” to the need for academic remedies.

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