Fellow Project

Daarel Burnette II EWA Fellowship-10 Project

District Savings Are Running Dry Amid COVID-19, Putting Some Schools in Dire Straits

Daarel Burnette II for Education Week March 23, 2021

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, districts have been bombarded with unexpected costs: iPads for remote learning, jugs of bleach to disinfect classrooms, Plexiglas for safety dividers, hazard pay for janitors, and PD for remote teaching.

But the public school system’s fiscal infrastructure is infamously rigid, making it almost impossible for administrators to pivot suddenly and spend large chunks of money on anything other than big-ticket items such as teachers, administrators, and curriculum.

So, in order to keep kids learning, staff employed, and school buildings open, chief financial officers in districts around the country have turned to one of the most unregulated and inequitable corners of school finance: their fund balance accounts, more commonly known as “rainy day” funds.

Read the full Education Week article


How COVID-19 Will Make Fixing America’s Worst-Performing Schools Even Harder

Daarel Burnette II for Education Week March 23, 2021

Six years ago, barely a third of the students at East High School, in Rochester, N.Y., graduated on time. Students were being suspended at a rate of more than 2,000 each year. More than half were chronically absent, and more than three-quarters couldn’t meet the state’s academic benchmarks.

In 2015, at a time when East High—one of the city’s oldest and biggest—had been deemed New York state’s worst-performing school, the district’s board let the University of Rochester take the reins.

The arrangement, which involved overhauling the staff, curriculum, and school climate, has proven mostly successful—and came at a sticker price of more than $36,000 per student.

Read the full Education Week article