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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An entire sector of America's education workforce faces paycheck jeopardy in the coming weeks that moving to remote teaching can't easily fix.

Why it matters: Half of America’s education workforce isn't teachers, and they support students and school districts in many ways educators cannot — like counseling, feeding students, transportation and mental health.

  • These positions are often credited for many students’ positive experiences with school, a study from Brookings notes. 

The big picture: Schools serving kindergarten through college spent months to find ways to teach in-person, but America's second wave threw those plans overboard.

  • Now schools that spent millions to re-open are closing almost immediately after resuming, another big hit to pandemic-strained budgets.
"The expectations back in June were by now we would have been on a downward curve and possibly have leveled off, the opposite is the case. [Remote learning] has an impact on staff obviously if there’s nobody in the building. ... Consequentially, school districts are furloughing them as a result of that."
— Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, tells Axios

The state of play: The state budgets for this school year were counting on revenues from sales tax, income tax and property tax. When the deficits show, even districts with union representation could have difficulty protecting these groups. 

  • Salaries and benefits are by far the largest expenditures on schools, accounting for 80% of operating expenses, according to Brookings
  • Because of the nationwide teacher’s shortage, districts will be hard pressed to keep their teachers and let other personnel go, Domenech said.
  • Colleges that reopened are already closing their campuses for fear of spread, but are allowing athletes, international students and others to stay. Partial maintenance and dining hall support staff will be needed.

Flashback: 20% of school librarians in the U.S. were laid off after the Great Recession for budgetary reasons, according to EdWeek.

The bottom line: Some school districts are going to have to get creative to keep staff employed. The American Federation of Teachers released guidance Wednesday on how to help employees:

  • Train staff to equip and use buses as hot spots for students in nearby neighborhoods that need internet access.
  • Bus drivers can distribute food and school supplies for families in need.
  • Keep employees for building cleaning and maintenance.


Go deeper

Nov 26, 2020 - Health

Food banks feel the strain without holiday volunteers

People wait in line at Food Bank Community Kitchen on Nov. 25 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank For New York City

America's food banks are sounding the alarm during this unprecedented holiday season.

The big picture: Soup kitchens and charities, usually brimming with holiday volunteers, are getting far less help.

Nov 26, 2020 - Health

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

Nov 26, 2020 - Health

Berlin to open six mass COVID vaccination centers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at German federal parliament in Berlin on Nov. 26. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Berlin aims to open six centers with the capacity to vaccinate up to 4,000 people per day with an approved COVID-19 vaccine by mid-December, project coordinator Albrecht Broemme told Reuters on Thursday.

Why it matters: If successful, Germany could be a model for the U.S. and other wealthy countries to handle the logistical challenges of administering a vaccine that requires strict temperature control and storage.