June 6, 2020
In April alone, more than 1.1 million teachers and staff lost their jobs.
Here’s what you need to know.
According to reporting from Reuters, citing a U.S. Labor Department report:
- Public Schools: 469,000 public school kindergarten through 12th grade teachers and other school personnel lost their jobs in April alone.
- Private Schools and Colleges: 457,000 teachers and other school personnel lost their jobs at private schools, including colleges, universities and K-12 private schools.
- Public Colleges: 176,000 professors and other employees at state colleges and universities also lost their jobs.
The story of Covid-19 has focused largely on the private sector, as the global pandemic has decimated small businesses ranging from restaurants to gyms and everything in between. One area that is often overlooked is the impact on education, both in the public and private sectors. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken more than 40 million jobs in the U.S. based on the latest unemployment statistics. While May’s job report showed a recovery of 2.5 million jobs, many jobs may be permanently lost. Will this include education too? What does it mean for educating the next generation?
Can schools open this fall?
It’s a major question that parents and students everywhere are asking. Can schools open this fall? The reduction in teachers and staff may be one signal that schools, colleges and universities expect budget cuts and lower tuition as a result of COVID-19. The costs to colleges and universities cannot be understated. For example, Cornell President Martha E. Pollack said that the financial hit to Cornell University through next year could reach $210 million, plus $40 million annually for the next two years thereafter. This spring, many schools across the U.S. switched from in-class instruction to remote learning. Similarly, many colleges and universities closed their campuses leaving many students to spend their freshman year of college or first year of business school without an in-person educational and social experience.
Like schools, college and university leaders must decide whether to open their campus this fall or wait until 2021 (or later). Public leaders will need to decide how and when to open schools safely. The decision will most likely be based on health and science and may differ by geography based on local circumstances and needs. Many governors, mayors, educators and other leaders are developing comprehensive plans that focus on health, virus testing, safety, learning, social interaction, online versus in-person instruction, and the impact on children and teachers alike. They will also need to consider the possibility of a second wave of Coronavirus potentially this fall or winter.
What will next stimulus bill look like?
Many have started to speculate on whether the next stimulus bill will include a second stimulus check, more unemployment benefits or even a return-to-work bonus. An important question regarding the next stimulus bill is whether there will be funding for states and cities. This is especially important for states and cities, such as New York, that have been impacted disproportionately by Covid-19. Democrats such as Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have made funding for states and cities an important priority in the next stimulus package, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to focus on other initiatives for the next stimulus bill. If there is additional funding for states and cities, how much will be directed to the public and private education system? The Heroes Act, the $3 trillion stimulus bill passed by the House of Representatives, includes approximately $100 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Education to distribute to the states. This includes about 90% for local and state funding of primary and secondary schools, and about 10% for colleges and universities. However, the Heroes Act is unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form.
The future of education doesn’t rest on the COVID-19 pandemic, but the education sector has been impacted materially by Coronavirus. While the vast majority of these layoffs may not be teachers, the employee reductions raise questions about sustainability of certain colleges and universities, in particular, who depend on tuition as a major source of income. Also, will students return to campus this fall, or will they opt for a gap year? What will this mean for the future of student loans? Will students be willing to borrow more student loan debt to spend an academic year in a remote learning environment?
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