After their ed-tech usage soared during the first year of the pandemic, some districts are now looking to “constructively reduce” the number of tools and platforms in play. That has implications for companies.
State budgets will not see the deep cuts that many feared at the height of the pandemic and are expected to funnel more money into school districts over the coming year, according to a new analysis.
New data from the National Association of State Budget Officers shows signs of improvement across state spending plans. While they generally haven’t rebounded to pre-pandemic projections, general fund spending is on track to increase by 3 percent this year, the data reveals. And governors in 39 states proposed increasing state spending in fiscal year 2022, which covers the coming academic year.
That’s good news for public schools, which rely heavily on state funding sources. NASBO figures project K-12 spending to increase nationally by $23.9 billion in fiscal 2022 — a counterbalance to the $7.4 billion cut in spending schools faced this year.
And that doesn’t include the federal money directed to schools through the American Rescue Plan, the sweeping measure signed into law by President Biden in March, which channeled $122 million into K-12.
It’s a very different reality than the one school districts and governors were bracing for around this time last year, when revenues in 45 states fell and experts warned it could take years to dig out of coronavirus budget holes.
“Last spring, when the pandemic first hit and the economy was spiraling down, there was definitely a fear that the cuts would be a lot worse than we saw,” said Kathryn White, director of budget process studies for NASBO. “Generally, the outlook has been improving since those spring forecasts.”
Tax Bases Bounced Back
There are multiple reasons the more dire predictions didn’t come to pass, White said. For one, the federal stimulus money pumped into the economy ultimately boosted state coffers.
States also didn’t see severe drops in income taxes as many higher-income workers were less impacted by COVID-19 than expected, because many transitioned to working from home. And she said online shopping helped mitigate losses in sales tax revenue.
Overall, 38 states had their general fund collections for fiscal year 2021 come in higher than expected. That’s a completely flipped story from 2020, when 35 states had revenues fall short of their budget.
States were also able to lean on their reserves. Prior to COVID-19, states’ rainy day funds were at an all-time high after a decade of rebuilding following the Great Recession, NASBO found. Balances were as high as 14 percent of states’ spending. After 2020, balances dropped 12.8 percent, and they’re expected to fall again in 2022.
While the national picture is rosy, White said it’s important to note that some states were hit harder than others.
For example, states with an especially strong tourism industry or a higher unemployment rate saw larger negative impacts on their budgets, according to the NASBO analysis. Those states were more likely to make budget cuts this year, and they’re planning more modest budgets for 2022.
That means the impact on K-12 spending will vary by state. And schools also will continue to cover additional costs caused by the pandemic, including extra safety precautions or increased support to address student academic stagnation during the pandemic.
States will have to be careful with how they allocate one-time federal money and budget for the next few years to ensure long term stability, White said.
“There’s just a lot of uncertainty about what the post-COVID economy will look like, how it will affect states,” White said. “And, of course, the Delta variant in the U.S. has tempered some activity in places, so that adds another layer of uncertainty.”
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The highly contagious COVID-19 variant stressing school reopening plans is forcing education technology companies to confront how much leeway they give their employees to choose whether to get vaccinated.
The decision for those businesses – like those across the U.S. economy – is not only about the rules they set for their own work environment, but…
Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from a series of Olympics competitions last month care for her mental health was surprising and transformative. The move, especially by an Olympic athlete who is considered one of the greatest the world has ever seen, was more influential and inspiring than any athletic feat thus far.
The gymnast’s withdrawal from the competition emphasizes the importance of holistic self care and should inspire us to think about how we can practice taking care of our own selves and supporting those around us — our children, our colleagues, and our family members — to do the same. When we’re feeling unwell, it’s hard to be the best version of ourselves. The “twisties” can take many different forms and the connection between mental health, social emotional wellness, and performance is real. (Biles, after not participating in the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise, as well as the all-around event, later re-entered the competition and won a Bronze medal on the balance beam.)
By withdrawing, Simone Biles has shown courage and vulnerability. She has prioritized her own wellbeing over the fame and glory of being crowned Olympic champion. Coming off of Naomi Osaka’s decision to pull out of the French Open in May for similar reasons, there’s an opportunity to follow these athletes’ leads to prioritize their own wellbeing as inspiration for your students to do the same.
Here are four ways we can encourage students to follow Biles’ and Osaka’s leadership and cultivate the skills in themselves that will strengthen their own social-emotional wellness.
Invite students to write out an expectation that is weighing on them from their family, school, or society. Then have them come up with a gentler expectation they choose to place on themselves.
Ask students to reflect on whether the expectation that is weighing on them came from themselves or from someone else. By thinking about how we can replace this external expectation with a kinder one, we’re being gentler on ourselves and the pressure we hold.
Generate ideas for self and community care. Students explore ways they can care for themselves and their community and how that might feel by expressing this through movement.
Students can do a movement to represent a self-care step they would like to take (like taking deep breaths) and a frozen statue in their bodies for how that self-care step makes them feel. Then, invite students to make a movement for a community care step they can take (like picking up trash at a park or speaking out about unfairness) and a frozen statue in their bodies for how that might make folks in their community feel. Debrief with students and reflect on what they can do to take care of themselves and their community.
Follow the Follower
Understand the importance of both leading and following. Invite students to form a circle and have them try to move their hands at the same time and in the same way as everyone else. Without speaking, the group should choose one student to be the leader and follow that student. The group then lets the leadership pass to a second person and follows the second leader. Last, have everyone be a leader.
Debrief with students and reflect on what it felt like to lead and to follow. Discuss how they can take the lead in their school and support someone today who is taking the lead.
The Leader Shop
Recognize when to step up and when to step back. Invite students to practice 3 energizing movements that could help them prepare to take a bigger role in a group, like jumping jacks or a Shake Off. Then have them practice 3 calming movements that could help them prepare to let others lead, like pressing their thumb and pointer fingers together in a triangle and breathing, or standing quietly in mountain pose.
Students then reflect on when they might need to step up versus step back while working or collaborating in a group. Discuss how we can make a space where everyone can be authentic and real, and in order to do this, we need to know when to step up and take a bigger role, and when to step back and let others take the lead.
Leveraging the celebrity appeal of the Olympics and Simone Biles and understanding her strong, inspiring decision can be an authentic way to explore and apply social-emotional wellness in the classroom. When we can process and reflect on our feelings and connect them to current events, we give students an opportunity to see social emotional skills in real life application.
Photo: Simone Biles prepares to start her performance on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women’s apparatus final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Aug. 3. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Education companies are making sure they have technology and plans in place in case the new COVID variant ends up disrupting in-person learning this school year.
EdWeek Market Brief surveyed district administrators, principals, and teachers about whether they have a positive or negative view of products designed to curb “learning loss” — and why.
EdWeek Market Brief surveyed district officials on which features of SEL products and programs are most important to them.
K-12 curriculum software and subscription spending grew at a higher rate than any other technology budget area for school districts last school year, as their IT budgets mostly increased from the previous school year.
In a survey of 170 district technology leaders by the Consortium for School Networking, 62 percent of participants reported their schools’ funding for curricular software/subscriptions rose between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, with 56 percent also noting a spike in cybersecurity investment.
Another 56 percent of respondents said their district’s overall IT budget expanded, with 12 percent citing a “major” increase, according to a summary of the report.
District technology leaders ranked cybersecurity as the top unmet technology need, followed by home access connectivity and interoperability.
“In a situation where even well-funded corporations in the private sector struggle to address cybersecurity issues, poorly funded districts are at a disadvantage,” CoSN said. “One respondent called the need for more cybersecurity funding as ‘desperate.’”
Cybersecurity has been a focus area for CoSN, which is one of several organizations that endorsed the Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act. That bill would set a path for the federal government to guide best practices for K-12 cybersecurity and provide cybersecurity grants to schools that could benefit certain education companies.
Congressional lawmakers have not acted to advance the bill.
Big Investments in Hybrid Learning
In addition to greater curricular software and cybersecurity spending, the majority of those surveyed also noted new technology initiatives, with 64 percent saying that they added classroom technology to support simultaneous hybrid learning, such as rotating cameras, microphones and speakers; and 60 percent reporting that they now offer a remote-only instruction option.
Further, 37 percent of tech chiefs said they added “district-wide student-facing Cloud-based applications,” such as learning management systems, to their digital ecosystems, and 23 percent of districts gave devices or extra monitors to educators for home use.
Only 2 percent of participants reported not supporting new IT initiatives or existing IT efforts that weren’t already supported pre-pandemic.
Almost all district leaders are looking to the federal government for technology funding help.
About three-quarters of those questioned plan to request support from the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund for Wi-Fi hot spots, while 90 percent of respondents said infusions provided through three stimulus bills enacted over the last 17 months significantly helped remote-learning or related IT initiatives in their districts during the pandemic. (See EdWeek Market Brief’s recent, nationwide survey showing how district officials plan to spend the new, $7 billion connectivity fund overseen by the FCC.)
The three COVID stimulus packages heaped an overall $189.5 billion financial windfall on U.S. K-12 schools. Districts have until Sept. 30, 2024, to commit the last bit of that money.
Compared with the CoSN review, a recent EdWeek Market Brief survey found a slightly lower percentage – 62 percent – of 280 district administrators interviewed, planned to seek ECF reimbursement for Wi-Fi hot spots for home use. However, the CoSN survey did not specify that the hot spots sought for reimbursement pertained only to home use.
“There is a marked shift in how school district IT leaders are preparing for this fall, compared to the back-to-school survey results from last year,” CoSN CEO Keith Krueger said in a statement. “While the federal government delivered critical funding when school districts needed it most, we must now invest in cybersecurity and ensure sustainable, secure and equitable home broadband access for students and educators into the future.”
Image by Getty
Graph provided with permission from the Consortium for School Networking
The total value of mergers and acquisitions in the education industry grew by more than 50 percent from the second half of 2020 to the first half of this year, as companies across the market rushed to add to their portfolios, according to a report by investment banking firm Berkery Noyes.
The overall number of individual M&A transactions also rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.
Education companies closed 240 acquisitions in the first six months of 2021, up from 222 deals in the second half of 2020, and 210 mergers in the first half of last year. There were 238 acquisitions in the education industry in the second half of 2019.
The total value of education acquisitions from January through June was $19.4 billion, largely driven by Platinum Equity’s $6.4-billion acquisition of McGraw Hill, the report noted.
Deals made during this period had nearly as much value as mergers and acquisitions for the full year of 2020, when they totaled $21.4 billion.
The investment group, which provides advice and financial consulting to middle-market companies in the technology and information sectors, tracked 1,152 education deals between 2019 and June 2021.
Private equity financed 40 percent of acquisitions during the first half of this year, 8 percent higher than the 2019-2021 overall average.
According to Berkery Noyes, 97 of the 240 deals during this time frame were financed by private equity, venture capital, or some other investment firm, the most in at least three years and a 131 percent increase over the first half of 2020.
Twelve deals in the first half of this year carried values of more than $100 million, and at least seven of those involved the K-12 sector. About one-third of the total transactions had values between $4.5 million and $54.6 million.
K-12 media and tech surpassed professional training services as the education industry’s most active market segment year-to-date.
There were about 50 acquisitions that involved professional training services and roughly 40 deals that involved K-12 media and tech in the second half of last year, while nearly 60 deals touched K-12 media and tech and about 45 deals covered professional training services in the first half of 2021.
The report showed a mixed picture for market activity in various segments for the first six months of this year compared with the second half of 2020.
The rate of deals in the childcare services and higher-ed media and tech spaces increased during this span, but the number of deals in professional training technology, higher-ed institutions, and K-20 services fell. Deals involving K-12 institutions remained stable.
In addition to the McGraw Hill acquisition, notable K-12 deals in the first half of 2021 included a Byju’s purchase of Indian tutoring provider Aakash Educational Services for $900 million, Renaissance’s $650 million acquisition of Nearpod, and Kahoot’s $435 billion addition of K-12 single-sign-on provider Clever.
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A director of math and computer science instruction for the San Francisco schools calls for curriculum and assessment in the COVID era that address a broad array of students’ needs.