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A regular update from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown’s McCourt School. 
As Warren Buffett is fond of saying, “you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” 

In school finance, the ESSER funds are that tide, and that tide goes out in 20 months. That means come September 2024, districts will need to adjust annual spending down by $60B. Running the math, that would require cuts of 8.6% or $1,200 per student, on average. 
So far, per our ESSER tracker, about half of the money is being spent on labor costs. As Chad showed in The 74schools have been adding teaching staff over the last couple years. If districts have to make up the ESSER gap through employee layoffs, it will get ugly out there
Here's how to use back-of-the-envelope math to get a rough estimate of how many jobs would be eliminated if your district balanced its gap in labor costs with job reductions:
Will states fill the gaps? We doubt it. 
Nationally, states contribute some $380B to schools. To backstop the full ESSER gap, state legislatures would need to up their commitments to education by 16% (on top of any inflationary growth). Even covering just the labor portion would be a steep ask. 
As Marguerite recently told District Administration, “Public education has not seen [a fiscal cliff] of this magnitude at any time in the past, including the last recession.” Enrollment drops and a broader economic slowdown could make things worse.
Now is the time for district leaders to get ahead of it. 
To be sure, our forecast is hazy. Much depends on what districts do between now and then to navigate these complex financial pressures.

That’s why we're offering two Certificate in Ed Finance cohorts this spring, to help leaders look ahead, weigh tradeoffs, and engage communities on behalf of students. 
Join us in NYC March 29-30 or in Los Angeles April 12-13. Scholarships may be available, best to apply early for those. For questions, email

An Ohio law is well-suited to the current moment: It requires districts to create and submit five-year budget forecasts to encourage more thoughtful multi-year financial planning.
If district budgets are out of balance, the state provides three stages of oversight: fiscal caution, fiscal watch, and fiscal emergency. The net effect is to prompt districts to take actions earlier to maintain financial stability, thereby mitigating impacts on students. 
Last call: School Board Finance Workshop

Who owns the responsibility for spending our nation’s education dollars through the messy months ahead? That would be school boards. This workshop delivers four interactive virtual sessions, 12-2 ET Feb 23 & 24 and March 2 & 3. Learn more and register here
In case you missed it:
For those wondering how to use NERD$ school-by-school financial data, Ash offered tips and delivered a lively presentation to a group of reporters on what stories lurk there.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with insights or suggestions:
Connect with us on Twitter:
@MargueriteRoza, @ChadAldeman, @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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