Cindy Gallagher, SAANYS Director of Government Relations
April 2021 News & Notes
Much of the work of government relations these past few weeks has been in studying the federal stimulus funding coming to schools and understanding items in the state budget. By the time this article is posted, it is possible that the final state budget has been signed and we may have a more solid idea of the financial supports coming to schools. From what can be discerned at this point, it is likely that many school districts will see substantial increases in funding levels. As the possibility of this funding becomes more tangible, it is important to contemplate how this funding will help districts emerge from the pandemic stronger. This will require a careful analysis of current needs and what is needed in a post-pandemic environment.
Many sectors of business and government are engaging in discussions that reflect on the pandemic and lessons learned. In a recent McKinsey report, certain trends are emerging that will likely shape our actions as we move from “grinding” through the present to shaping our tomorrows. Some of the trends highlighted in this report may have implications for education and may be valid considerations as school districts look forward to the next school year.
Acceleration of Technology
Businesses report that initiatives that were intended to occur within the next ten years are happening now. Digitization and technology have helped businesses move 20-25 percent faster this year and have increased productivity. It is estimated that there has been a 10.6 percent increase in productivity in the third quarter of 2020.
In terms of education and technology, the obviously accelerated trend was remote learning and the required infrastructure needed to support this learning model. Certainly, this year showed us many inequities and implementation may have been clunky, but what was accomplished provides a solid jumping off point. What will districts need to push this trend forward to meet new educational needs? How can the federal relief funding support this acceleration? This area impacts how districts collaborate with internet providers, E-rate programs, and community partners, and also impacts the role of a district’s technology department and staff. How did districts use personnel differently or how will new demands impact current staffing patterns?
The pandemic required many sectors to reorganize their service delivery models. The health and mental health fields have expanded telehealth medicine and retail industries have been required to rethink customer personalization in an online environment. As an example, the CEO of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center stated that in 2019 there was a total of 2,000 telehealth visits for the year, which increased to 5,000/week in July 2020.
This business trend was less obvious in education, but some areas have emerged as accelerants for reorganization. The intersection of education and health was a necessity this past year and could prove to be necessary for moving forward. Whether it be public health or mental health, collaborations have been emerging over the past few years. Community schools, inside-outside community models, and professional development have been areas of collaboration. During the pandemic this trend has been expanded. As the health, mental health, and educational needs of students merge, the new relief funding may be used to expand needed services in a more integrated model.
“The future of work arrived ahead of time.” Prior to the pandemic working from home was an idea that seemed doable to some extent and specific to some industries but was not met with wholesale adoption. However, overnight tens of millions of people shifted from office to home office. This dramatic shift will not only impact jobs that were immediately able to convert their locations but will also impact many jobs that currently seem anchored to one location.
How did this trend impact school districts? Again, the obvious is remote learning and the settings in which teachers provided instruction. It will be important for districts to assess whether a hybrid model was successful and in what situations. Again, the infusion of federal funding could support decisions in this area. The trend for increased remote work may impact schools in other ways. It is possible that student and family mobilization may increase or that a student’s district of origin/residence may take on different meaning. This could impact the number of students in a district and attendance.
Increased Entrepreneurial Efforts
Although the pandemic has been challenging for many businesses, in the third quarter of 2020 over 1.5 million new business applications were submitted. This is twice as many applications than for the same period in 2019. These types of trends impact what fields will hold the greatest potential employment opportunities and what types of leadership is needed for growing employment areas. This past year shows that the fastest growing areas were in STEM, business, legal, and property management.
These trends have interesting implications for education. Combined with expanded distance learning opportunities and remote learning, educational leaders will need to think about what instructional programs will best support students during the post-pandemic period. It will certainly require districts to be more flexible in terms of course offerings, which will impact the recruitment of teachers and staff. Increased partnerships with community resources and across regions may need to be expanded. Should districts reorganize course offerings, the federal relief funding could support the initial phases of program development.
Overall, with the information at hand today, New York is poised to receive over $14 billion in federal relief support. Additionally, it is likely that there will be increased state funding and other federal funding for designated areas such as COVID testing, E-rate programs, and specific groups of students in need. This type and amount of money is intended to be transformational but making that actionable takes time. Our current systems are not structured to take the time to think about what is needed for transformational changes. Often, the funding of this nature will have a short shelf life, or the processes needed to distribute high levels of funding are delayed. This does not mean however, that additional time is extended to school districts to develop transformation plans or implementation timeframes. It takes time (time that building administrators do not have) to understand the short and long term needs of schools in a post pandemic period. As Einstein is attributed to saying: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Time to put on those thinking caps, as it is likely that school districts will have rather short turnaround times for required fiscal planning and application submission.
Susan Lund and Anu Madgavkar “The Future of Work After COVID-19” McKinsey Report (February, 2021) https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19
Craven, Matt, Liu, Linda and Mysore, Mihir “COVID-19 Implications for Busines” McKinsey Report (March, 2021) https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business