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Survey: School budget cuts even worse next year

57 percent of school leaders say they’ll have to delay tech purchases in 2010-11, up from 29 percent this year

School budget cuts will be noticeably more significant for 2010-11 than they were in the previous two years, superintendents say.

School budget cuts will be noticeably more significant for 2010-11 than they were in the previous two years, superintendents say.

Although the economy has begun to rebound, K-12 education leaders say they are still facing serious budget shortfalls for the coming school year that threaten their ability to implement new technologies, raise the quality of instruction in their classrooms, and close achievement gaps among students, a new survey reveals.

Released April 8, Cliff Hanger: How America’s Public Schools Continue to Feel the Impact of the Economic Downturn,” the latest in a series of national surveys from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), identifies a number of key challenges that are compounding an already grave situation.

Continued budget strains at the state and local levels will be exacerbated next year when the federal stimulus funding ends, the survey suggests—a phenomenon referred to as the “funding cliff.”

And though President Obama’s federal budget plan for fiscal year 2011 requests $4 billion more for education than the previous year, the administration is proposing to shift a greater percentage of federal dollars from formula-based grants to competitive grants—a move that school leaders fear will further squeeze their limited resources.

The results are likely to include more budget cuts, more job cuts, and fewer resources for programs and personnel, AASA warns—a scenario that doesn’t bode well for education technology or other school-reform initiatives.

“The economic downturn persists at the state and local levels, a reality that needs to be considered as Congress and the Obama administration move forward with both the federal budget process and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” said Dan Domenech, AASA’s executive director. “Our members were clear in articulating their concern about the cessation of [stimulus] dollars, the proposed level funding for IDEA and Title I, and the significant shift to competitive grants within the federal education funding process.”

The survey, which polled 453 school administrators in March, found that the economic climate of school systems doesn’t reflect the recovery beginning to take hold in other sectors. In fact, school budget cuts will be noticeably more significant for 2010-11 than they were in the previous two years, the survey suggests.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they plan to delay technology purchases in 2010-11, up from 29 percent in 2009-10. Half of respondents said they plan to delay or eliminate instructional improvement strategies next year, up from 22 percent in 2009‐10.

Despite an influx of stimulus money, two-thirds of school leaders (68 percent) said they were forced to cut personnel in 2009-10—and 90 percent anticipate having to do so in 2010-11. Class sizes also are expected to balloon this fall: While only 9 percent of respondents said they increased class sizes in the 2008‐09 school year, that number grew to 26 percent in 2009‐10 and is expected to reach 62 percent for 2010‐11.

After holding steady at two percent for both 2008-09 and 2009-10, the percentage of respondents who are considering reducing operations to a four-day school week rose to 13 percent for the coming year. And more than a third of respondents (34 percent) are considering eliminating summer school this year, up from 8 percent in 2008-09 and 14 percent in 2009-10.

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Comments:

  1. corinnegregory

    April 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    “Raising the quality of instruction” has very little to do with money, as it happens. One way to increase the quality and outcomes of instruction has to do with improving teacher effectiveness in the classroom. And, by that I don’t mean “get better teachers” — there are a lot of great teachers out there who aren’t able to do what they set out to do because of unruly and disruptive students. And THAT problem can bleed literally millions of dollars out of schools and districts every year.

    It also has other “financial” effects like increased absenteeism — get more students to come to school on a regular basis and you return money to the schools’ bottom line. Cut down on teachers who leave the profession because of burn out due to poor student behavior and you’ll reduce the money needed to recruit and hire new ones.

    Oh, and if you decrease the amount of time wasted in the classroom, repurpose that into learning, you’ll see better test scores.

    None of that requires more budget, in fact you can do all this within the same, or even reduced budgets. One requirement: enlightened thinking on the part of administrators to consider other alternatives that DON’T mean adding to district budgets.

    If you want to learn more, visit my blog at http://socialsmarts.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/teachers-dont-have-time/

  2. corinnegregory

    April 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    “Raising the quality of instruction” has very little to do with money, as it happens. One way to increase the quality and outcomes of instruction has to do with improving teacher effectiveness in the classroom. And, by that I don’t mean “get better teachers” — there are a lot of great teachers out there who aren’t able to do what they set out to do because of unruly and disruptive students. And THAT problem can bleed literally millions of dollars out of schools and districts every year.

    It also has other “financial” effects like increased absenteeism — get more students to come to school on a regular basis and you return money to the schools’ bottom line. Cut down on teachers who leave the profession because of burn out due to poor student behavior and you’ll reduce the money needed to recruit and hire new ones.

    Oh, and if you decrease the amount of time wasted in the classroom, repurpose that into learning, you’ll see better test scores.

    None of that requires more budget, in fact you can do all this within the same, or even reduced budgets. One requirement: enlightened thinking on the part of administrators to consider other alternatives that DON’T mean adding to district budgets.

    If you want to learn more, visit my blog at http://socialsmarts.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/teachers-dont-have-time/

  3. sberow

    April 12, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    And these cuts to education and technology come just as the push comes for 21st Century classsrooms and learning and new technology standards. How can new standards guidelines and goals be achieved with staff being cut, classrooms becoming larger, and no no technology.

  4. sberow

    April 12, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    And these cuts to education and technology come just as the push comes for 21st Century classsrooms and learning and new technology standards. How can new standards guidelines and goals be achieved with staff being cut, classrooms becoming larger, and no no technology.

  5. icomer@bridgeton.k12.nj.us

    April 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I work in the technology department of my school district. I understand the frustration sberow mentioned but agree with the point that corinnegregory makes.

    Money is a necessary resource for education today. However, more money does not necessarily mean better instruction. Especially when educational staff are either unable or unwilling to properly leverage the resources (technological, human, or otherwise) to increase learning.

    “More” may be unlikely with “less” but not impossible. I’m sure many of adults were effectively educated with less than today’s students. Learning and the cost of which has changed, but how has education’s effectiveness changed?

  6. icomer@bridgeton.k12.nj.us

    April 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I work in the technology department of my school district. I understand the frustration sberow mentioned but agree with the point that corinnegregory makes.

    Money is a necessary resource for education today. However, more money does not necessarily mean better instruction. Especially when educational staff are either unable or unwilling to properly leverage the resources (technological, human, or otherwise) to increase learning.

    “More” may be unlikely with “less” but not impossible. I’m sure many of adults were effectively educated with less than today’s students. Learning and the cost of which has changed, but how has education’s effectiveness changed?