Over the past three years, the School District of Philadelphia received a total of $1.8 billion from the federal government to spur recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re wondering how that money is being spent, the info isn’t easy to find.
In collaboration with the Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting at Temple University, Billy Penn analyzed nearly a thousand school budget reports to pull out that information.
Even in those individual reports, labels don’t clearly describe how the money was spent; we had to ask the district to explain them.
Broadly, the district earmarked the funds for a few major buckets: facilities repairs, extracurricular programming, and staff hires. But there is no published list of which schools received funding, and how much.
After sorting through all the data and checking it with district officials, we’ve published the info in a searchable database, below. We also cross-analyzed figures with demographic and geographic information to see what trends appeared.
There is one caveat. The funds included in the school reports, and an additional spreadsheet provided by the district, add up to just over $225 million. That’s a fraction of the overall amount received by the district.
Search for how much money went to a specific school
Enter a name into the table below to find information on COVID relief funds for a specific district school.
Where did the rest of the money go? The district’s budget documents don’t separate spending of the federal relief dollars from other revenues, making it difficult to track.
We do know the intended breakdown for the bulk of the dollars: the $1.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in 2021. The district pledged $350 million of those funds to before-school, after-school and summer learning programs; $325 million to facilities improvements; and $150 million to social services in schools. The other $275 million was pledged to curriculum development, information technology, and “Goals and Guardrails,” the district’s five-year strategic plan.
Even without being comprehensive, the info from individual budget reports provides a window into which schools the district prioritized, how they directed the federal money toward staff and programming, and how the distribution breaks down on a per-student basis.
Here’s what we found.
Where the school funds went
COVID relief funds flowed heavily to schools in North Philadelphia, serving the neighborhoods of Nicetown, Olney, Sharswood and others. The three top zip codes to receive funding were in North Philly, and the area as a whole received more than a third of the funds sent to individual schools.
West and Southwest Philadelphia schools also received a high proportion: 21% of the money sent to individual schools went to that section of the city.
The three schools that received the most funding out of the $225 million outlined in the budget reports were:
- Thomas A. Edison High School, a neighborhood school in North Philadelphia ($2.25 million)
- John H. Webster Elementary School, a neighborhood school in Harrowgate ($1.96 million)
- Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical High School, a citywide admissions school in West Lehigh ($1.95 million)
Those schools, however, did not necessarily receive the most money on a per-student basis.
The top 10 for per-student funding includes five of the district’s “Innovation Network” schools, which are special-admission and intended to be testing grounds for new learning models. Three others were neighborhood schools, one was a citywide admission school, and one was an accelerated school for students who may be at risk of not graduating from a traditional high school.
The Crossroads at Hunting Park, which describes itself as “a structured educational program to help students in 3rd grade through 6th grade with behavioral and academic issues,” received the most in per-student funding, followed by Philadelphia Learning Academy North and Philadelphia Learning Academy South.
How the funds were used
There are four general streams of funding that comprise the $225 million sent to individual schools:
- Funds for schools to hire staff at their own discretion (about 43% of the total). Common hires included reading and math coaches, and administrators like assistant principals or school climate managers.
- Funds for centrally-allocated school nurses and psychologists, which the district directed (38%)
- Funds for before- and after-school extracurricular activities (16%)
- General funding for schools classified by the state as Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI), a term for schools that have one or more student groups performing below certain academic metrics (3%)
Methodology: How we got the data
The figure for the overall amount of funds the School District of Philadelphia received from the federal relief packages was sourced from the U.S. Department of Education.
Individual school budget allotments can be found on this district site at the bottom of the page. To find the report for a particular school, select your school, the budget year you would like and “School Budget Allotment Detail” from the dropdown menus, and press “Get Report.”
We extracted all data from each budget report that contained the keywords “ESSER,” “ARPA,” “GEER,” “ATSI” or “CARES.” However, the budget reports are missing data from the FY22 allocation of ARPA dollars toward “Learning Support,” which was an allocation of funds for schools to use for after or before school activities. That data was provided directly to Billy Penn and the Logan Center by an administrator for the district.
We processed the data using the coding language R. Charts and tables were made using the platform Flourish.
This story is part of a project with Temple University’s Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting examining educational disparities within the Philadelphia School District.