The Trump Administration’s 2017 and 2018 education budget proposes some drastic cuts, most notably, the elimination of the $2.3 billion Title II-A (ESEA) funding and $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
According to the administration, ESEA funding and 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs are ineffective and duplicative. But the budget documents (which consist of more than 27 volumes of artifacts) did not explain why they are ineffective (or with what they are duplicative), though there is no shortage of opinions on both sides of the debate.
This is our current reality. Outrage isn’t going to help, so I’m focusing on the actions we can take, given the reality we face.
I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with districts across the US and to learn from district leaders about their challenges like drastic state budget cuts, high poverty populations, burdensome state compliance requirements, drastic growth in immigrant/refugee populations, growing special education needs, aging facilities, labor relations challenges, rural populations, school board mandates and charter school growth, to name a few.
I don’t have any doubt that these potential Federal cuts have some very negative implications for districts; but I also don’t believe that districts should or will be paralyzed by them.
What Schools Can Learn from Businesses
Although we often hear about budget cuts in government agencies, this happens in the private sector all the time, too. Companies often ask different departments to cut budgets or come up with innovative ideas for generating new revenue streams or creating efficiencies—and they do it.
For example, facing stiff competition from the rise of videogames in the 90s, Lego rebounded with cost-cutting strategies and new Lego lines making it the world’s most profitable toymaker.
Facing a similar trajectory as Circuit City, Best Buy made some drastic changes, including transforming the customer experience, which saved the company.
I experienced it first-hand in the public sector. Early in my career I worked in Mayor Giuliani’s budget office in New York City. We often asked departments to submit PEGs, recommended “Programs to Eliminate the Gap” between revenue projections and expense estimates. In many cases, departments proposed some very innovative programs out of need for both cutting costs and generating revenue.
I think now is the perfect time for districts to pull up their own bootstraps (or pull them higher) and focus on what districts can do to adjust to outside forces—and not just cuts from the Federal government.