- Non-teacher K-12 employees are vulnerable to layoffs as the country skids into a coronavirus-induced recession, The 74 reports. Many superintendents are trying to keep support staff on the payroll, but some have already had to cut positions.
- Most schools nationwide have closed, already sidelining many non-teacher staff members. After-school tutors were laid off in Utah in March, for example, and Virginia legislators are petitioning Gov. Ralph Northam to prevent educator layoffs through the end of the school year.
- With a recession expected to persist well after the pandemic subsides and school funding cuts anticipated as a result of lower tax revenues and other economic factors, positions like guidance counselors, classroom aides and librarians — the latter of which have already seen positions reduced 20% since 2000 — could find themselves on the chopping block.
The pandemic struck just as state budgets were beginning to recover from the economic impact of the Great Recession, though many had yet to return to pre-recession levels. Those with robust rainy day funds may fare better than states lacking them. And while the immediate impact of the emerging recession won’t be seen immediately, districts will need to prepare for the shortfall that could be felt as soon as the 2020-21 school year.
A recent study published in AERA Open shows cuts made during the Great Recession negatively impacted student achievement. In grades 3-8, student achievement was about one-quarter less than expected between the 2008-09 and 2014-15 school years. Vulnerable student populations tend to face the greatest impact, as the communities they live in often face the most adverse impacts as a result of states' per pupil funding formulas often being based on property taxes.
The sharpest declines were among African American students eligible for free- or reduced-priced lunch. Revenue declined $900 per student nationally, but in areas hit harder by the recession, the per-student yearly revenue decline was as much as $1,500. The impact on achievement was also greater among older students.
Many of the support roles that could face cuts also play a critical role in achievement. The impact of existing guidance counselor shortages, for example, was already felt by many schools, with the average caseload per counselor being as high as 905-to-1 in some states, despite the recommended ratio of 250-to-1. Likewise, para-educators play a crucial role in the success of students with IEPs, while librarians — who now often serve the broader role of media specialist — are a valuable resource not just for traditional literacy, but for media literacy, as well.