The K–12 Pandemic Budget and Staffing Crises Have Not Panned Out—Yet

Selected Findings from the Third American School District Panel Survey

by Melissa Kay Diliberti, Heather L. Schwartz

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This report presents school district leaders' views about staff turnover, hiring, and districts' financial outlooks at the end of the 2020–2021 school year.

Based on the survey responses of 292 district leaders from the American School District Panel (ASDP), the authors found that teacher and principal turnover had not increased substantially beyond pre-pandemic rates in most districts. They also found that a majority of school districts have increased or are trying to increase their number of staff—especially for substitute teachers and mental health staff—for the 2021–2022 school year.

District leaders also reported budget concerns. Four in ten district leaders anticipate a fiscal cliff around the time coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) federal aid expires in September 2024, and over half of the districts that anticipate a funding increase from federal stimulus funds are concerned about their ability to spend the money, even though virtually all district leaders said that they have some level of discretion in how to spend those funds.

Although districts' reported impacts have not led to much-feared budget and staffing crises for their school districts, these survey findings suggest systemic problems that could outlast the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Findings

  • Nationally, district leaders reported that 6 percent of their teachers and 6 percent of their principals retired or resigned at the end of the 2020–2021 school year—rates they said were on par with their pre-pandemic attrition rates.
  • About one in ten superintendents said that they planned to leave their jobs by spring 2022, and media reports indicate that their turnover is higher than normal.
  • Nearly four in ten districts anticipated a fiscal cliff in the next three or four years as federal aid expires.
  • Eight in ten districts that anticipate a fiscal cliff have modified their spending plans for the upcoming 2021–2022 school year and the year that follows to mitigate the effects of such an event.
  • District leaders are seeking to hire more staff across job categories for the 2021–2022 school year, especially substitute teachers and mental health staff.

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The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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