- Several education and civil rights organizations are urging the U.S. Department of Education to collect comprehensive state and district spending data for COVID-19 relief funds to ensure the money is reaching students who have been historically underserved or who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
- Among the groups’ recommendations for the proposed data collection is for states to include information on how interventions met the intended purpose for the funding set aside for each student subgroup. That information will help stakeholders better assess how students were served by the relief funding, the organizations said.
- Many education stakeholders are eager to make sure policies and financing serve those most in need, but are also aware of the data collection burdens local school systems face and the desire to streamline collection efforts with other required data reporting programs.
The letter from nine education and civil rights organizations, including the Alliance for Excellent Education, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and The Education Trust, was included in the Department of Education’s call for comments about data submissions for the nearly $200 billion in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The comment period closed Aug. 31 with 77 comments, according to Regulations.gov.
The groups suggest the data collection expand on the categories for reporting about use of funds to address lost learning time by including activities used to reengage students with poor attendance, the use of evidence-based practices to support language development for students learning English, restorative justice practices and more.
“With the historic investments that the federal government is making through COVID relief funds, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address systemic disparities in our education system for all students, particularly our most vulnerable students,” said Deborah Delisle, president and CEO of the Alliance for Excellent Education, in a statement.
Adding another reporting requirement, however, will be burdensome for many districts.
“Short staffed districts cannot afford to add more tasks to our already full plates,” read a comment submitted by the 3,371-student Enterprise Elementary School District in Redding, California. “If we are going to receive money as part of relief efforts, please help us by not requiring more work.”
The Council of Chief State School Officers, while endorsing the need for transparency and effective use of ESSER spending, voiced concerns about the logistics of the reporting requirements. As proposed, the ESSER collection would limit the ability of state and local education systems to accurately report data for the funds because data systems are not designed to capture individual student-level information by funding stream or intervention, CCSSO wrote.
To comply, districts and states would need to integrate the collection of that information with existing school-level data collections, a process that could take years even though the ESSER reporting deadlines start in February 2022. CCSSO recommends the ESSER data collection align with the current structure of most state and local education agency data systems for “feasible, accurate, and timely reporting.”
Recognizing the data collection hardships some districts may face, the education and civil groups’ letter recommends the Department of Education produce a chart of data points that will be required by the ESSER data collection form and data being requested for other collections, such as the Civil Rights Data Collection.