Leading Source

Recession’s lasting effect on public schools unknown

1-1235664948qCNwHaving made some really tough budget decisions in the past few years—and now confronted with yet another tough fiscal year ahead—local school boards truly are entering “uncharted territory.”

That’s the title of ASBJ‘s May cover story, which examines the budget struggles of public schools nationwide—and what the future holds.

Perhaps the biggest question is how recent budget cuts will affect student learning. If little Johnny must attend a class with 30 other students, how does this affect his ability to learn to read? How is little Sally affected if her math teacher hasn’t had any professional development training since 2007?

Answers are simple: No one knows. But certainly many worry about the accumulated impact of larger class sizes, loss of teacher training, delayed technology and textbook purchases, closed down tutoring programs, and the layoff of many qualified teachers and administrators.

Oh, yes, then there’s the astonishing fact that some financially hard-hit school systems—including the entire state of Hawaii—switched to a four-day school week to balance their budgets.

“I think you’ll see the impact 10 years from now,” predicts Cindy Stevenson, superintendent of Colorado’s Jefferson County Public Schools.

The May cover story does more, of course, than simply outline the abysmal financial situation facing local school boards.

It also looks at what strategies some school systems are using to shield the classroom from the negative impact of budget cuts. And it looks at how these cuts might cause parents to question the quality of traditional public schools and lead families to look harder at such alternatives as charter schools

The article also takes a quick peek at new ways of doing business—such as a massive inter-district collaboration and sharing of operating services in Michigan.

Now is the time, says John Musso, executive director of the Association of School Business Officials International, to use today’s fiscal challenges as a motive to change how school business is done.

“It’s too bad it takes something like this to make us look at all of our options . . . closing schools, reopening negotiations, cancelling contracts,” he says. “Those are not easy things to do. But [times] are bad and they’re going to get worse …. Now is the best time to push through change.”

Del Stover, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|April 29th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, NSBA Publications|Tags: , , |

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