Our school district projects budget cuts of about three million dollars next year. That's five percent across-the-board if the cuts were to be made uniformly (which is impossible). And our district is in GOOD financial condition compared to many across the state, nation and world.
But you know, I am almost looking forward to the cuts. Echoing Tim (Assort Stuff) Stahmer's great blog post from a couple days ago, 2009-10 just might the year we can stop, take a real deep breath, evaluate our programs, reflect, and re-prioritize our budgets. (I rather enjoy doing budgets, making transparency a priority as long time readers may remember.)
This email below was shared with me by Nick Glass from TeachingBooks with whom I was visiting at the SLJ Summit. It was sent in response to a sales inquiry for his excellent product. (Used with permission, product names deleted to protect the innocent, see my product endorsement policy).
All I can tell you is that we are INUNDATED with electronic teaching resources. This past year we have implemented ________, an online writing program; _______, a comprehensive curriculum for math, language arts, and science grades K-12; the ______ program which is helps secondary and adult ELL learners learn English; ______ which is an ELL program for younger learners; _____ at the high school level; _____ at the alternative high school; and a new standards-based electronic gradebook.
We are tapped out, maxed out, and stressed out. We have all of the technology we can manage (more than we can manage actually) and we have neither the funding nor the capacity to look at any more resources in the foreseeable future.
Could this have been written by the educators in your district? While we have not implemented curricular tools and programs at the level described above, our district has been pushing things at our teachers at a rapid pace: SmartBoards, math games, a new student information system/gradebook/parent portal, streaming digital video, a "common assessments" program, expectations of teacher created webpages, etc. All this on top of a new "professional learning community" approach to self-directed, evidence-based staff development. A new "strategic road map." Higher percentages of ELL, FRP, and SpEd students. Nastier state tests and passage rates required for graduation. Whew!
Maybe applying the techno-brakes a little in 09-10 might be a good thing. A hard look at our tech and library budgets is in order. As I myself preached in 1995:
As much as I hate sounding like a Republican*, I have to say more money is not always the answer to better services to staff and students. A good budget requires planning, prioritizing, and accountability. When those things are done, better programming is the result - even without an increase in funds. (Budgeting for Mean, Lean Times.)
Can budget reductions ever have positive outcomes?
* For you whipper-snappers, back in '95 the Republican party was considered not just socially, but fiscally conservative as well.