FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 1, 2011
This morning, New York governor Andrew Cuomo released a $132.9 billion budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, in order to tackle a $8.9 billion budget gap. Among proposed cuts in state spending is a $1.5 billion cut to public education, which will reduce school funding by 2.9 percent. "New York is at a crossroads, and we must seize this opportunity, make hard choices, and set our state on a new path toward prosperity," Governor Cuomo said today.
Despite positive economic messages surrounding President Obama's recent State of the Union address, school districts across the country will be forced to make hard choices, as they are likely to see budget cuts for the next half decade. Nationally, forty states currently project budget gaps totaling over $140 billion for the next fiscal year. Even worse, states will have to try to fill the gaps with nearly $40 billion less in federal stimulus funds than they had last year--creating what many officials are calling the "ARRA cliff," the sudden loss of billions of dollars in federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Looking even further down the road, twenty-four states already face a combined gap of $66 billion for fiscal year 2013. When it comes to schools, these gaps are significant because state dollars account for almost half of K-12 education funding.
This calls for a new mindset among educators and an unfamiliar, sometimes-uncomfortable commitment to productivity and cost-effectiveness. This past fall, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), "It's time to stop treating the problem of educational productivity as a grinding, eat-your-broccoli exercise. It's time to start treating it as an opportunity for innovation and accelerating progress."
In his recent edited volume, Stretching the School Dollar (Harvard Education Press, 2010), Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at AEI, suggests various ways to control spending by tightening up operations, rethinking staffing, and using technology smartly:
- Cut waste and inefficiency from administrative operations and districts' central offices
- Structure teacher and staff roles and compensation to maximize the return on this core investment
- Use technology to improve cost efficiency in conjunction with, or in lieu of, traditional classrooms
"In the next five years, educational leaders won't be able to count on fresh infusions of funds to fuel their improvement efforts," said Hess. "They'll need to find smarter ways to spend the dollars they already have. Fortunately, there are a wealth of ways that leaders can find substantial savings and get more bang for the buck by transforming schools and districts into smarter, more effective organizations."
Frederick M. Hess of AEI is available for interview and can be contacted through Jenna Schuette at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.862.5809.
Watch Frederick M. Hess on what's wrong with school reform here.
AEI's in-house ReadyCam TV studio--for live and taped interviews--can be booked through VideoLink at 617.340.4300. To book AEI's radio booth and ISDN lines, please contact Sara Huneke at email@example.com.