Invest in Teachers First: A Call to Action for Teacher-Focused Investments of Federal Relief Funds
State education agencies are investing new federal relief funds in initiatives such as technology, broadband, summer programming, virtual tutoring, and teacher professional development for e-learning. Research suggests that one of the most significant impacts of the pandemic is exacerbating existing inequality and widening achievement gaps. A condition associated with the American Rescue Plan Act funding is that 20% of district funds must address student learning loss. The COVID-19 learning loss—or, as we call it, learning privilege— is grounded in the fact that some students were able to learn this past year, whereas others were not. Bridging the gap is essential to prevent additional disengagement of students who are behind. Given that the shortage of effective teachers disproportionately impacts students who are at a disadvantage in both schools and society, states are in a critical position to use these funds to address equity and opportunity gaps. Investing in supporting and stabilizing the educator workforce in underserved schools is essential to avoid the risk of widening gaps.Yet, without effective teachers in every classroom, states may not experience the highest gains from their ESSER investments. Simply put, the best way to invest in students is to invest in teachers first. We urge education leaders to make significant, strategic investments in educators to stabilize the educator workforce and address teacher shortages. These investments will be essential to ensuring that all other investments find solid ground.