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2024 District Leader Survey Results

95% of CT district leaders say loss of COVID-relief dollars will impact their students
Backpacks hang on the back of students' desks in an elementary classroom.


The past several years have tested public education like never before. Whether it be responding to the pandemic and its disruption to learning, recruiting and retaining educators in the midst of a teacher shortage, or combating student learning loss, school district leaders and educators have responded to challenge after challenge.

But many districts across Connecticut are currently facing another challenge — the expiration of federal COVID-relief (ESSER) dollars — that could have significant impacts on students, services, programs, and staffing levels.

With the deadlines to allocate and use these funds quickly approaching, and research showing how the loss of ESSER dollars will result in "fiscal cliffs" for districts across the state, the School and State Finance Project and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) partnered to survey and quantify how the expiration of federal relief funds will impact districts, staff, and students.

The survey results revealed district leaders believe the loss of ESSER dollars will impact thousands of students and educators through cuts to programs, services, and staff, and make it more difficult to address student learning and mental health needs, support higher-need students, and improve student academic performance.

Scroll down for key findings from the survey results, or click here for a full summary of the results. To view all the survey questions and answers, please click here.

Survey Key Findings

  • 95% of district leaders surveyed said the loss of ESSER funding will have at least some impact on students in their district, with 76% saying students would be impacted moderately to a great deal.
  • Over 80% of district leaders surveyed believe the loss of ESSER funding will make it more difficult to:
    • Address student learning needs
    • Help students with greater learning needs (ex. students with disabilities, multilingual learners, students living in poverty)
    • Improve student performance
    • Address student mental health needs
  • Tutoring/academic improvement programs, summer learning programs, and student mental health services are the most likely programs and services to be cut or eliminated when ESSER funding expires.
    • Cuts are estimated to directly impact nearly 64,000 students, according to survey respondents.
  • Top three challenges districts are currently facing:
    • Increasing student mental health needs (90% of respondents selected)
    • Rising special education costs (88.3%)
    • Increasing student learning needs (80%)
  • Paraeducators, mental health professionals, and tutors are the positions most likely to be cut, eliminated, or left open when districts lose ESSER funding.
    • An estimated 257 positions are expected to be cut, eliminated, or left open, according to survey respondents.
  • Teachers are most likely to be impacted by cuts to professional development/ training, cuts to support staff and teaching positions, and increased class sizes when ESSER funds expire.

About the Survey

  • In the field from January 29 to March 1, 2024.
  • Emailed to every school district superintendent and Regional Educational Service Center (RESC) executive director.
  • Survey respondents included superintendents, RESC executive directors, and chief financial officers/school business officials.
  • Included 15 questions (all optional), plus areas at the end of each section for participants to provide additional information or comments.
  • 60 district leaders completed the survey, including 14 from Alliance Districts.
  • Every District Reference Group (DRG) was represented in the survey responses.

Map of towns represented by participants in the 2024 District Leader Survey.