K-12 Parents’ Perspective & CARES Act Update: How the K-12 Community Is Responding

by: Adam Newman | Blog Papers |Mar 31st, 2020

Since our note last week, conditions in the K-12 community continue to shift on a nearly daily basis. Eight states have now announced school closures for the entire academic year with most others closed at least through April, if not longer. For many, the specter of a fully remote spring semester is a growing reality.

Stakeholders across the ecosystem – students, parents, teachers, administrators, suppliers, and government – are working tirelessly to adapt and chart a path forward in the near term to sustain academically credible learning experiences. Meanwhile, the K-12 community is also beginning to look out further into the 2020-21 academic year, particularly given the federal government’s passing of the CARES Act last week. Our note this week offers updates and some data addressing both dynamics.

We took the pulse of parents of PreK-12 students across the U.S. these past few days to understand how they are doing with the current state of their children’s remote learning experience. We have shared some key highlights below; more fulsome findings can be found in a presentation, available for download.

We have also highlighted how selected states and districts are responding to the $2T stimulus package as they grapple with adjusting budgets for both the remainder of this year and into their next fiscal year.

Finally, thanks for the kind feedback on last week’s note during this busy time. We will continue to stay in touch weekly for the near-term. Let us know if there’s anything you need us tracking for you and your team.

Wishing health and security to everyone in our community.

Adam Newman, Founder and Managing Partner

Chris Curran, Founder and Managing Partner

Tanya Rosbash, Director

What are we learning about K-12’s shift to “remote learning” so far?

Parents’ Perspective – Managing School at Home: Tyton Partners launched a short, national online survey to parents of PreK-12 students in late March to better understand their experiences with remote learning given the widespread school closures. In appreciation for parents’ time and perspective, Tyton Partners has made a donation to No Kid Hungry which will support students who need meals as a result of being out of school.

Remote Learning Approaches Vary: Last week we wrote about the wide-ranging approaches to remote learning. News sites have called the transition “massive”, “scattershot”, “uneven”, “chaotic”, and “hodgepodge.” A pulse survey of parents’ of PreK-12 students this past week highlights some of these descriptors. According to parent respondents, over half of schools are “mandating” remote learning, 30% are “encouraging” it, and 10% are leaving educational decisions up to parents and families. Even within those segments, remote learning models looks different. Roughly a third of parents report their children are receiving a full-day academic structure and support. For balance, parents are playing some meaningful role in their child’s educational experiences. Use of various digital tools and instructional resources also vary; download the research to see more.

Amid Myriad Challenges, Parents Want to Keep Children on Pace: Parents report their most important educational priority is keeping their children on pace to be ready for their next academic year. This trend is consistent for parents of children across all grade levels. Other priorities include helping children stay connected with friends and teachers, easing children’s anxieties so they can stay focused on learning, and maintaining daily structure for their children, among others; download the research to see more.

Teachers Receive Extensive Support but Are Overwhelmed: As schools take to virtual learning, most teachers have been scrambling to adapt to an entirely new way of working. The New York Times recently highlighted the “Herculean task” for the city’s 75,000 public school educators moving online. Moreover, as the supplier community moved so quickly to make resources freely available, teachers have expressed both great appreciation and a sense of inundation as they try to sift through myriad options.

Digital Divide Leaves Students Behind: Widespread concern persists regarding limited internet access for some families and its potential to exacerbate the achievement gap in the U.S. Approximately 15% of U.S. households with school-age children lack high-speed internet access. Parents responding to our pulse survey echoed these concerns with some degree of frequency. While efforts are underway to provide devices and hotspots to students and families in need, more will need to be done, both near and longer term.

Remote Learning Challenging for Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities – who make up 14% of the public school student population – are more vulnerable than ever right now. Schools and districts are struggling to provide accommodations in a remote learning setting; meanwhile the CARES Act provides Education Secretary Betsy DeVos the right to grant waivers to states regarding their IDEA implementation, creating further uncertainty and worry among stakeholders and advocates in the special education community.

Data Privacy Concerns Are Increasing: The rapid shift to remote learning in K-12 has prompted concerns about data privacy across the educational community. Warnings and caution are being advised regarding the potential for cybersecurity threats, increased potential risk with video interactions between teachers/students, and the fact that quickly adopted instructional programs and tools are likely bypassing normal vetting protocols.

How will the $2 trillion stimulus package support K-12 education?

The CARES Act sets aside ~$31B for the Education Stabilization Fund, of which $13.5B is earmarked for K-12 emergency relief to be distributed to districts based on their proportional allocation of Title I funds. States are given flexibility in how to use these funds. An initial comparison of how this first stimulus funding package compares to 2009’s American Reinvestment & Recovery (“ARRA”) Act is highlighted below.

In addition to the $13.5B included in the Education Stabilization Fund, the stimulus package also allocates ~$30B to additional programs (e.g., SNAP, Head Start) to aid families during school closures. Notably, while early versions of the bill set aside funding for the E-rate program to boost schools’ technology and telecommunication investments during the current period, the final passed version does not.

The CARES Act overall is ~2.7x larger than ARRA in 2009. However, the amount dedicated to K-12 education in this initial package is much smaller – $77B in 2009 as compared to $13.5B currently. Many advocates are saying schools will need considerably more support in the coming months to support students, and that the K-12 community will be looking for additional relief in future funding bills.

Beyond emergency funding to adapt the remainder of this school year, state and district leaders are already looking to the impact of the coronavirus and a pending recession on 2020-2021 budgets. A decline in funding threatens to wipe out limited reserves districts have built up, resulting in potential budget cuts to teacher salaries and other major expenditures.

Relative to ARRA in 2009, a greater portion of initial stimulus funding has been granted to higher education institutions, many of which have been forced to transition the remainder of their semesters to an online format.

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