In recognition of the impact COVID-19 has had—and will continue to have—on public education, school districts nationwide received historic levels of federal relief funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
ESSER funds were provided to state educational agencies and school districts to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students.
In response, Memphis-Shelby County Schools (then Shelby County Schools) began holding community events to gather feedback related to the 2021-22 school year budget and ESSER funding. Stakeholders were asked to share ideas for how the District spends these dollars in accordance with federal and Tennessee state guidelines.
Additionally, every Board business meeting from January 2021 to present includes opportunities for public comment regarding funding allocations.
Shelby County Schools scheduled community meeting dates to discuss the proposed 2021-22 Budget, ESSER (COVID-19 Relief) Funding, and the Third Grade Commitment plan. The community was encouraged to attend the meetings, in-person or virtually, to learn more about the District’s plans, ask questions, and provide additional feedback. All meetings were streamed live on voiceofscs.com and scsk12.org/board.
Shelby County Schools disseminated a community survey to all stakeholders, including students, employees, families, and community partners, to gather feedback related to the allocation of ESSER dollars. Some key findings:
4,957 people provided feedback on how the ESSER funds should be spent.
Academic needs was overwhelmingly selected as the top issue facing students.
Parents (56.4%) and teachers (33.5%) represented the two largest response groups.
“Teachers are the backbone of our District” and recruiting and retaining them was seen as the best way to strengthen the District and was the most frequently cited strategy to help SCS students.
For student academic support strategies early literacy and interventions for students in need were ranked highest overall.
To support educators a reduction in class size is essential. Teachers felt that additional planning time would help them as well.
In other student support strategies, mental health and more school counselors, nurses, and psychologist were ranked highest (3.7 weighted average out of 5).