Almost every state has been slashing budgets trying to balance expenses with shrinking revenues.  A few governors have asked for creative ways to stretch education funding while improving learning and operating productivity.  Here’s a few ideas:

Promote blended learning

  1. Require all students to take at least one online course each year of high school and negotiate a 10-20% discount with multiple online providers and give students/schools options.
  2. Provide statewide access to multiple online learning providers and reimburse at 80% of traditional schools (with performance incentives for serving challenging populations).
  3. Encourage K-8 schools to adopt a Rocketship-style schedule with 25% of student time in a computer learning lab and a tiered staffing model that makes long day/year affordable.  A loan program to upgrade to a 1:3 computer ratio would support adoption of a blended model could be repaid out of savings.


  1. Promote three year high school plan with accelerated credit accumulation and free summer school.
  2. Promote dual enrollment (if higher ed subsidy for dual enrollment is less than public subsidy for community colleges)

Significant budget changes at the state level

  1. UK-style budget reform that drives budgets to school level and reduces the role of the LEA
  2. Consolidate small low performing districts
  3. Negotiate pension reform

Facilities efficiency

  1. Provide framework/incentives for private REITs to purchase public school facilities (and provide waiver for use of proceeds to include capex to improve instructional programs).  Purchases would target:
    1. Schools in need of major remodels
    2. Schools in need of energy efficiency investment
    3. Surplus property
  2. Provide higher state match for facilities designed to support double shifted and blended models with lower cost structures
Previous articleAt the Moment of Teaching, Part II
Next articleDo We Need Textbooks?
Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


  1. Comment from John Watson, Evergreen Consulting (Keeping Pace)

    Alabama is the only other state with an online learning requirement. The Alabama requirement was created by the state board of education, not by legislation. Note that some other states (e.g. New Mexico) have requirements that can be met by an online class, but they can also be met in other ways so they are not the same as MI and AL.

    Also note that the MI requirement is a graduation requirement, so it’s one online learning experience for the student overall, not one per year.

    The Florida examples [promote online learning and reimburse on attendance & completion] are, in my view, more important than the online learning requirements in terms of their potential to transform education.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here