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A regular update from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown’s McCourt School. 
By Chad Aldeman
School boards are facing financial conditions unlike any before.

Financial choices that school board members are making today will have lasting effects on tomorrow’s kids. Marguerite provides lots of examples in a recent article for Forbes. 
And yet, it's complicated. School districts are flush with cash, inflation is eroding wages, and under-enrolled schools are costly. Texas is warning districts to build their reserves. On top of that—and most concerning—students are far behind where they should be. 
Districts were slow to start spending relief dollars, but we can now see an ESSER bonanza taking shape this fall with extra spending for new staff, raises, backfilling budget gaps, vendor contracts, and more. But that money eventually runs out.
 
The federal fiscal cliff is only part of why the 2024-25 school year looks ugly. Our forecast delivered in a recorded 30-minute webinar shows how an ESSER hangover from inflationary salary increases and mass hiring will collide with shrinking enrollment and an economic slowdown. 

You can see it coming in a chart we adapted from LAUSD’s financials:
In the spirit of back to school, we’re delivering a finance workshop just for board members.
We think practical, strategic financial skills will be particularly useful in the coming months. Please share this opportunity with any school board members in districts facing these kinds of financial dilemmas. 
School board leaders who go through our training sessions learn to engage more on financial matters and to communicate in ways that build trust on spending decisions affecting students. The virtual sessions run from 12-2pm ET on four Fridays, starting Sept 16th. Scholarships are available; apply early for those. Send any questions to Jordan.Tollefson@georgetown.edu. 
An innovation that seems reasonable to us!
As anyone who’s done our training knows, we like to bring real-time, noteworthy examples for discussion and ask if it “seems reasonable” or if participants are “less comfortable” with it. I’ll be embedding some of those examples into our newsletters. Here’s one:
Rather than paying a fixed price for a tutoring contract, Denver Public Schools negotiated outcomes-based contracts with its tutoring providers. The district pays 60% upfront, while the remaining 40% is contingent on whether or not participating students make a certain amount of agreed-upon academic progress. 
 
We’re highlighting this as a “reasonable” approach to partnering with vendors. The contingency payments encourage the contractor to have a stake in getting students to attend the tutoring sessions and ensure they are actually benefiting from the services. 

In other hot (August) news: 
No dog days of summer around here! Here’s what’s keeping us busy: 
You choose: DC or Cleveland. 
Want to dive even deeper and earn a Certificate in Ed Finance from Georgetown University? We have two fall options: Oct. 12-13 in Washington, DC, or Oct. 25-26 in Cleveland, OHGet details here.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with insights or suggestions: Chad.Aldeman@georgetown.edu
Connect with us on Twitter:
@ChadAldeman, @MargueriteRoza, @EdunomicsLab
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Edunomics Lab is a Georgetown University research center exploring and modeling complex education finance decisions to inform education policy and practice.
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