Dive Brief:

  • EdBuild joined with The New York Times to develop a database that overlaps COVID-19 incident rates with school district boundaries to identify school districts heavily impacted by the virus, including percent of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches and median incomes for districts.
  • The data includes the most recent COVID-19 incident rates per county and is updated twice a week. It also contains information on state and local funding levels, child poverty and race data, and median household income.
  • In a map detailing COVID-19 cases, Blaine County, Idaho, stands out as a hotspot, with one of the highest concentrations of cases in the country at 1,822 cases per 100,000 people. It also shows several parts of the country, mostly in the Midwest, which have no cases reported so far.

Dive Insight:

Data helps decisionmakers see which districts may need extra funds to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis is expected to have a long-term impact on school budgets, as its duration and ensuing economic impact will inevitably affect the flow of money to districts at a time when ed funding in many states was still just starting to recover from the 2008 recession.

The impact won’t be immediate. Districts are saving some money now since they aren’t spending on events, utilities, professional development and substitutes. But as tax revenues drop, districts could struggle in the 2020-21 school year. High-poverty districts will feel the impact more, as they rely more heavily on state funding. The EdBuild map can help identify districts that could struggle in the future, even if spared by the pandemic.

With both the pandemic and impending recession in mind, the federal government is making funds available for states to use. Prior to the passage of the CARES Act, Congressional democrats pushed for a third coronavirus assistance package that would have included $3 billion for schools in the form of mandatory grant programs and flexibilities for early childhood and K-12 programs.

From that, $1.2 billion would be allocated for states to help districts maintain necessary operations and allow schools to reopen sooner through technology acquisitions like 1:1 devices, school meal distribution, cleaning services and mental health support. Another $3 million would be allocated to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, while $600 million would be earmarked for early education programs to meet emergency staffing needs.

The race data contained in the EdBuild map will also help policymakers identify areas with a higher concentration of African Americans, who may have been hit harder given evidence of the pandemic’s impact on these communities in particular. In Chicago, 72% of the people who have died from COVID-19 are African Americans, even though they only make up 30% of the population. The data is similar in Louisiana, where 32% of the population is African American but accounts for 70% of the deaths.

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