When Times Get Tough, the Tough Get Creative!

Every day on the national news, we hear that the recession is ended, housing prices have stabilized, the jobless rate is improving and we are on our way to an economic recovery. On the local level, we still hear that states are balancing their budgets by cutting support for education translating into more teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer electives and the elimination of extracurricular activities. Some districts are depending on ARRA funds to balance their budgets — the smart ones are taking the bull by the horns and working on creative ways to fill the gap.

  • The New York Times reported that “Dozens of public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year allowing 10th graders who pass a battery of tests to get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college.” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $1.5 million planning grant to help the National Center on Education and the Economy work with states and districts to get the program up and running. Success in this move-when-ready program would depend on mastery, not seat-time.
  • Many districts have invested in state-of-the-art fitness, recreation and wellness centers. Some districts are now charging a “Community Membership Fee” for use of their facilities, the fees collected going towards keeping these programs and facilities open. In addition to dollars generated, the program also promotes community engagement.
  • Many districts are taking advantage of current technologies to plan and optimize their bus routes. More efficient routes are saving fuel, reducing operating costs, reducing wear and tear on the equipment and reducing fleet size. An added benefit is the fact that more efficient routes can reduce the amount of time that a student spends on the bus.
  • Programs encouraging volunteerism and donations are on the rise. Some districts have developed “adopt a school” programs where community members and local businesses provide much needed equipment and supplies to schools.
  • Districts must rely on community support to pass the bond issues or tax increases necessary to provide adequate funding. Regular newsletters dedicated to school budget cuts have proven to be an effective vehicle to keep the community informed, engaged and supportive of district needs.

We are always asking students to think outside the box. It’s time we do the same. If your district has implemented any creative, cost-saving ideas, let me know. I will share these ideas with our readers. By sharing (and implementing) the good ideas, we can affect the speed of our recovery and improve education for the future.