New Funds, New Normal, and a New Day for Education

Written by Patra Brannon-Isaac, director of education and community projects for the Kinder Foundation

We’ve seen the myriad of headlines forecasting the state of education as a result of the pandemic. We’ve heard endless commentary describing the pandemic’s impact on students, elevating terms like learning loss, disrupted schooling, and unfinished learning into the consciousness of education, policy, and community leaders. We’re all clear of the profound impact on students over the last year and a half, and there’s broad consensus that we’re at a pivotal moment in time to reimagine public education, especially when normal was not working for so many students pre-pandemic.

Given that consensus, there is still heavy discourse on how to spend the recent infusion of almost 12 billion in federal dollars coming to Texas districts over the next few years. I don’t envy the unfathomably difficult decision placed upon school leaders to determine what percentage of funds should be used to prioritize bold investments in new approaches or if the priority should be to bolster plans previously in play. One might say this could be one in the same, while others might note that such large dollars coming into a school system should allow the district to accomplish both. With each school system’s allocation however, that might be easier said than done, especially when you think about what’s required to pivot long running district strategies in a new direction with confidence.

Yet, this feels like a once in lifetime opportunity to reimagine what true equity in education can be. I’ve tried to conceptualize what this looks like in practice. Reading blog articles that discuss what recovery could look like and new concepts for schools and learning hubs from the Center for Reinventing Public Education help to imagine how a different education setting could be structured. And these ideas only scratch the surface, knowing that more effective integration of social emotional learning and other academic and wrap-around supports are integral to any equitable strategy to support students’ ability to readjust and thrive.

With district and school leaders deep in the trenches of collecting stakeholder feedback and determining use for federal funds, my hope is that all stakeholders will be more vigilant to listen and share new vision and ideas that benefit all students, especially those who are most marginalized. Looking back on this moment, our greatest hope as a city, state, and country is to see the courage, vision, and innovative mindset that created lasting change towards a more equitable education system for current and future generations.