With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts faced profound fiscal challenges. The roller coaster of school closings and reopenings, shifting enrollments, and funding uncertainties made for a complicated financial landscape.
In March of 2021, two bills were signed into law, bringing about the most significant infusion of federal education funds to states and school districts in history. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund committed $122 billion to help students. Ninety percent of those funds were distributed to local education agencies (LEAs) and charter schools to aid in student safety and lessen the effects of the pandemic on student well-being and learning, especially for those most underrepresented.
This created an urgent need among educators and the public for a better understanding of school finance and how to most effectively use education funds to meet the needs of all students.
The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), under the leadership of the new Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cade Brumley, took a proactive approach to better equip its leaders to make important financial decisions.
In the fall of 2021, working with the Region 14 Comprehensive Center, the LDOE recruited and sponsored over 60 attendees from their state school systems and charter schools to attend financial training with Edunomics Lab, a leader in financial education. The training aims to bridge the gap between what leaders receive in their prep programs and the actual demands of the job, allowing them to make strategic, data-driven financial decisions. Upon completion of the course, attendees receive a Certificate in Education Finance (CEF) from Georgetown University.
Marguerite Roza, Ph.D., is the director of Edunomics Lab and a research professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy where she leads the certificate program. Dr. Roza told us, “School districts are major financial operations, and district leaders are the stewards of huge budgets involving millions and sometimes billions of dollars. Yet, despite the fact that finance is a critical part of their job, many receive little or no education finance training through their administrator prep programs in the nation’s colleges of education. And in most of those programs, any finance curricula tend to focus on the revenue side of education finance rather than on spending. But district leaders generally do not make decisions about revenue. They do, however, make critical decisions about spending.”