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Policy Brief: Smart Budgets Equal Smarter Schools
posted by: Tim | December 18, 2012, 10:45 PM   

This week, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released new policy brief by Nathan Levenson, managing director at the District Management Council. A former superintendent, Levenson is familiar with the many budget restrictions that can often impede progress.

In the report, Levenson outlines three major strategies for striking a balance between necessary cost-cutting and maintaining or achieving results for students.

1.) Prioritize both achievement and cost-efficiency.

Knowing what works is crucial to efficiently cutting cost without sacrificing student achievement. By providing statistics and data from the classroom, teachers can track what endeavors constitute "Academic Return on Investment" (A-ROI) and base fiscal decisions on what proves to be truly effective.

2.) Make staffing decisions on student needs rather than adult preferences.
Teacher productivity is essential to saving money and insuring student receives the best education possible. While parents' input is important, it is essential that schools leaders and teachers make decisions that they think are best for students. By establishing guidelines for what constitutes a full and fair workload for staff, managing class size and monitoring insurance eligibility, schools can insure they are making the best decisions for their schools.

3.) Manage special education spending for better outcomes and greater cost-effectiveness.

The concept of "quality vs. quantity" is especially true for special education. The paper argues that districts can reduce their special education costs by ensuring that all children read at grade level, hiring a few behaviorists in lieu of many paraprofessionals, and staffing according to service hours, rather than numbers of students served.

While declining resources will clearly make managing, leading, and teaching in public schools more difficult, budget realities don't necessarily have to harm students. As Levenson asserts, "Transformative gains are still possible (and much-needed) despite tight finances. Leaders can guide districts through tough times by think¬ing differently, focusing on student needs, accepting their inability to meet all adult preferences, and applying smart strategies to special education."

Click here to read the entire policy brief.

What is your district/school doing to spend money more efficiently?
Comment below.


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