Let’s Be More Creative about School Spending

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Instead of working harder as the First Lady would have us do, let’s work smarter.

On Wednesday, my good friend Ben DeGrow at the Independence Institute shared a link to a new publication by Michael Petrilli from the Fordham Institute.  It very concisely lists some of the most creative thinking around school reform today.  These are ideas that have been tried and found to work in districts around the country.  Most importantly in the current economic climate, they address how to “stretch the school dollar”.  Oddly enough, Jeffco School District has literally stretched the school budget and spent more money every year for the last seven – until 2010/11.  So now that we are finally hitting a spending wall, it is going to take some creative thinking to achieve better results with less money.

Mr. Petrilli’s suggestions for stretching the school dollar include:

  1. Aiming for a leaner, more productive, better paid work force
  2. Pay for productivity
  3. Integrating technology thoughtfully

The first idea has yet to be discussed, but the district claims it will proceed with the other two. Pay for productivity should happen as a result of SB 191, but given that the details of implementation are yet to be determined, I’ll believe it when I see it.  As for thoughtfully integrating technology, that ought to mean using technology in place of teachers in order to save money – yet I was in a meeting where the Superintendent declared that online learning was “not necessarily less expensive”.  Why ever not?

In his “what not to do” section, Petrilli lists five mistakes:

  1. Do not shrink the workforce by laying off the newest teachers
  2. Do not narrow the curriculum
  3. Do not furlough workers
  4. Do not shortchange choice options
  5. Do not pass the buck to families.

I am fairly certain that the Jeffco BOE and the JCEA (teacher ‘s union) have used every single one in order to save money.  Why?

In his blog post today, Jonah Goldberg wrote the following:

(Mary Katherine Hamm) remarked “complexity is a subsidy” — and that really stuck with me. In many respects those four words distill vast swaths of scholarship from everyone from Friedrich Hayek to Charles Murray…

…Complexity benefits statists because increasing complexity allows statists to claim we need more government [school administrators?] to help people navigate through these complex times.

The idea of “complexity [as] a subsidy” so encapsulates the mentality of the education status quo.  It allows them to continually tell the public that drastic cuts will be necessary to balance the school budget – and scare parents into believing that if they do not pass a tax increase there will be no more librarians, counselors or music teachers – and the average citizen that looks at the actual financials will find them so complex as to be incomprehensible.  That is why Jeffco Students First was created – to be sure that the citizens of Jeffco have an alternative narrative based on actual spending and real choice.  We are here to encourage the school board to think more creatively.


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One Response to Let’s Be More Creative about School Spending

  • Adam Gardner says:

    Re: 2. Do not narrow the curriculum

    Are you aware that Jeffco lowered graduation requirements in 2011? Are you aware they were already lower than those required by Colorado universities? Jeffco to students: “Suprise! Your diploma doesn’t qualify you to get into a state university. If you’re wealthy enough you can spend a year paying big bucks to learn in a community college what we should have taught you for ‘free’.”

    Parents beware! It is up to you to make sure your student is taking the right classes to get into our Colorado public universities! Fight for your kid – Jeffco isn’t!

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