Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's All About the Benjamins (Repost)

Back in April of 2010, I posted the below on another site.  That was as a High School Principal.  Now as a Superintendent, it seems to be consistently relevant.

I'm sure that many people out there would agree that we really work hard in education to provide the best possible education for our students. I have believed this for a long time and still do. With the current status of economy across the nation, however, it is my observation that what I have long believed to be a staple belief is being eroded by another key belief...survival.

Survival is one of the initial instincts that we all have. It spans across the personal barriers of eating, reproduction, learning, loyalty, interdependence, and so many other concepts. As institutions or businesses, survival is key to being able to do anything positive for society. Look at mission statements and visions that promote the "grander thinking" of humanity in terms of what a company or organization can provide. Think about it...no survival, no anything. It suddenly becomes "all about the Benjamins" in order to finance our efforts.

So when the economy takes a dive, schools and educational supports are hard hit - not without an understanding of the long-term effects this will produce, but in a survival mode. Our government needs to survive too...keep that in mind...and without the government's survival, where do we all land? So education takes a 10% rap on the proverbial head, which is handed out at the district level. Seeing about 75-85% of all current funds for each district are tied to salaries, what is the natural response? Survive! Cut staff! Trim the fat! In order to "make it" the belt will again be tightened around the concept of doing more with less.

Now that we take a huge whack (again) at the individuals responsible for learning, what happens? Some leave the field, some become unemployed, some move to another position. Whatever they do, the hard part about reductions is that it is unlikely that the only individuals removed from their current positions will be those that are less effective with students. Due to contract language, we WILL be losing some of the most excellent educators across the nation. At the same time, there will be individuals that maintain their positions with less than stellar performances. That's the system, and there is a contract involved. For those that have the option to retain the correct people in the correct places, my hope is that they have the intestinal fortitude to make the calls on behalf of students. That can be a lonely place when it may involve a lot of battles, but it is necessary to place the students first if that is truly the cause in which we believe.

Now that we have eliminated a large part of our expenses and reduced the number of people working for the schools to do so, we face the next step of the spiral. With less local individuals making a salary, the tax base shrinks. Do the math, and yep, less money again. Less tax means less government ability to support anything, and I'm sure we'll look for another cut in the future. More spiraling.
There isn't an easy answer, but as a nation, we need to look at our most valuable resource - our kids - and think about them in our quest to survive financially. When we talk about the Benjamins, my hope is that our decisions reflect that it truly is "all about the Benjamins." But I hope that these Benjamins have a face and a last name and that they represent every child we touch, even those not named Benjamin.



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