Districts should use budget woes to innovate

The National Journal asked about public-private partnerships backfilling budget cuts.  Here’s my response.
Public-private partnerships are a good idea; there should be more.  But I hope the private partners supplanting public funds are in for the long run–I think schools in many states have a couple more years of tough budgets ahead.
On a more interesting topic, I was hoping to see more opportunity in crisis–leaders using the recession to make important policy or administrative gains including:

  • closing failing schools
  • replacing struggling alternative schools with blended models like AdvancePath that can do a better job for half of what most districts spend
  • maintaining a long day/year by going partially blended like Rocketship in San Jose (1 of 5 periods in their elementary schools are spent in a learning lab)
  • offering more courses online
  • bringing more partners on campus; Match uses work-study students from near by colleges to provide Saturday tutoring
  • streamlining central administration and pushing more budget authority out to schools
  • inserting performance in teacher layoffs like Michele Rhee did in DC

There’s still time to take advantage of two more terrible budget cycles.  Districts will be going into budget planning for 2010-11 in the next 120 days and should think hard about ways to incorporate the innovation agenda to help cope with budget woes.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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