Wednesday, July 06, 2011

In School Budget News...

Probably the last thing you want to think about right now, especially if you're not a principal (or maybe if you are a principal, actually), is your school's budget for the upcoming year. Pretty much all the budgets are going to be ugly. Your school may see excessing, attrition, copying limits (OH GOD, ANYTHING BUT THAT), and more. Nevertheless, there's two pieces of budgeting news of which you may want to be aware, if you like to be aware of this kind of thing.

I'm not sure whether this first one constitutes good news, but if your principal kept squirreling money away even though the DOE said that it would be dashed away, the savers may be getting the last laugh. As long as your school gets a C or above on its progress report, you can keep your rainy day fund. While this is good news for those schools, tying school budgets to "performance" on standardized tests has always mystified me somewhat. Schools with less money have less to offer students who are clearly already struggling. It may feel like the DOE is "punishing" incompetent or apathetic adults, but at the end of the day, it's the kids who suffer more than the adults do.

Well, enjoy your rainy day fund, if you have one. Between you and me, my principal spent like a drunken sailor there for a while, I assume because s/he thought that the money would be yanked away if it wasn't spent. It'll be interesting to see what the budget picture looks like at my school next year.

The other piece of news is that schools with lower proportions of poorer students will be facing even steeper budget cuts due to the loss of federal Title I dollars. Although this may come as no surprise in these tight financial times, it sure does suck to be a school in which 59%, rather than 60%, the magic Title I number, of your students receive free lunch.

Money is a funny thing in schools. Budget hawks like to say that you can't solve a problem just by throwing money at it, and while that might be true, I'm not sure that the converse of that statement is true; that is, I'm not sure you can solve a problem in education without throwing money at it, either. Whether it's money in terms of materials, personnel, facilities, or student support, the bottom line is that schools won't have as much money, sometimes by a lot, to throw at problems. Some of those problems are going to go unsolved for the short term; some of those problems have remained unsolved for a long time.

Just remember, it's all your fault, teachers.

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