James May-June 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 54
are no longer a problem. Even before COVID-19, Georgia
had yet to restore the state budget to pre-recession levels,
leaving many districts without the resources they needed.
Given that these federal dollars are intended to cover increased costs associated with the pandemic, this infusion
could pose a risk to districts’ long-term financial sustainability if not invested properly or simply used to shore up
reductions in current state funding allocations.
Further, it is important to remember that while the
pandemic has touched every school district, the impacts
on the levels of student needs are not equally distributed. Many communities that have borne the brunt of
COVID-19 have also been subject to long-standing inequities prior to the current crisis and are the least resourced
to address these challenges. Decades of data show that
certain groups of students have long been systematically underserved by the current education system. This
includes students of color, students from low-income families, and English learners, as well as those with special
needs, or who are experiencing homelessness. These are
also the populations hit hardest by the pandemic and will
need the most supports to recover.
As districts tackle this monumental challenge, they
should begin with a detailed assessment of what their
schools and students need. The assessment should include an intentional, inclusive, transparent process that
leads to a COVID recovery strategy that systematically
M AY/JUNE 2021
collects feedback from stakeholders— students, teachers,
parents, school leaders, and the community around the
needs and expectations of the school system. Student-level data must also be analyzed to understand the problems
the district is trying to address. Spending priorities can
then align with a comprehensive recovery strategy.
These needs will look different across communities
and should be tailored to local needs. Some districts
may choose to adopt a new core curriculum or provide
meaningful training and implementation of an existing
one. Others may decide to train staff in social-emotional
competencies or make capital investments to improve
indoor air quality.
Currently, we do not know the full educational and
economic impacts of the past year on students or districts. However, we do know some about the magnitude
of the needs associated with COVID-19. Georgia has
known for decades where educational inequities exist,
which communities were hardest hit by the pandemic,
the level of investments needed and where those investments should be made. To meet those needs and
move Georgia from recovery to succeeding, we need to
leverage these federal dollars to ensure all children have
access to a quality education.
Dr. Dana Rickman is president of the Georgia Partnership for
Excellence in Education.