Crisis Response in California School Districts
Public education today faces a troubling set of challenges, including declining enrollment, staffing shortages, and polarized communities, with school boards at the center of broader political debates. How did we arrive at this current state? This study—described here and, in more detail, in a related report—of seven California school districts conducted during the first 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic explores how districts responded in real time to the unfolding health crisis as well as to the growing national reckoning about structural racism. Our case studies show that districts—often bolstered by relationships with labor, the community, and leadership—stepped up to a tremendous challenge, demonstrating resourcefulness, collaboration, and commitment to serving students and their communities. However, our findings suggest that challenges for district leaders have been relentless and show no signs of abating.