Guest blogger Bruce Hunter, associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, analyzes Fordham's latest publication, How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education.
The public knows a good deal about their schools.
The new Fordham Institute poll regarding how to reduce the cost of public education shows in part that the public knows a good deal about their schools and the effects of the now four-year long recession/depression public schools are experiencing. Unfortunately, the poll either didn’t fill in context or didn’t report contextual information.
The public gets it—compare its opinions with actions being taken:
- Sixty-nine percent say cutting central administration is a good idea. That has happened according to a series of AASA surveys of school districts, which found that 34.1 percent reported central administration cuts in 2010-11, 30.7 percent in 2011-12, and 23.5 percent anticipate such cuts in 2012-13.
- Seventy-four percent responded that cutting teacher pay was a good idea, but only 14 percent wanted teacher layoffs. Anecdotally, there have been pay freezes; however there have also been massive layoffs. For example, school districts reported that 42 percent cut aides in 2010-11, 43.8 percent in 2011-12, and 35.85 percent anticipate such cuts in 2012-13. Similarly, 37.9 percent reported laying off core subject teachers in 2010-11, 40.7 percent in 2011-12, and 35.6 percent anticipate such cuts in 2012-13. Layoffs of Special-education teachers, foreign-language teachers, and school nurses were 300 to 400 percent smaller than of other teachers, aides,
Category: School Finance
Guest blogger Michael Podgursky, economics professor at the University of Missouri, reflects on Fordham’s latest report, How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education.
A growing body of research in economics points to the importance of human resource policy in the performance of public and private organizations. In this regard, this new Fordham survey shows solid public support for more rational personnel policies in public education. A large majority (73 percent) favors the option of having high-performing educators teach larger classes. Similarly, when faced with a personnel decision requiring workforce reductions, a majority favors laying off a much more senior (twenty years experience) teacher with average evaluations over a novice teacher (two years experience) with excellent evaluations. Finally, 70 percent of respondents favor scrapping traditional defined-benefit pension plans in favor of individual retirement plans. Of this group, 17 percent favor this reform for new hires only, while the majority seems to support change for both current teachers and new hires. Various school-reform organizations are pushing for changes in rigid personnel policies in public schools. This Fordham survey suggests public support for these types of reform.
Guest blogger Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, analyzes Fordham’s latest report, How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education.
Looking at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s new survey, How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education, it’s abundantly clear that Americans are interested, engaged, and supportive of their local schools. There is also an overriding sense that many of these hard choices must be made at the local level with a community’s input—thus showing clear evidence for the need for local school boards.
The authors have created a scenario of choosing between critical programs and staff for public schools—choices such as laying off teachers, instructional leaders, arts and music classes, and extracurricular activities. However, this survey is about four years late—many public schools are already operating on a bare-bones administration and have been forced to make tough choices to lay off teachers and cut academic programs. And with the federal government looking to implement sequestration this January, K-12 programs may see further across-the-board cuts.
While reducing the number of administrators seems like the obvious answer, as 69 percent of respondents indicated, many of these officials play key roles in developing curriculum, managing services, and performing other duties that are directly tied to student achievement. Like any business, school districts need officials to manage budgets and operations to ensure that students are safe
Education budgets are tight and state and district leaders must make tough decisions about where and how to save. But is the public willing to accept cuts? Which ones? Where?
Today, the Fordham Institute is releasing a new report by the FDR Group's Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett that uses the results from a nationally representative survey to help answer these questions. From cutting central-office staff to reforming retirement benefits, How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education outlines how voters think spending should be reduced—and what programs must be protected. What exactly did the authors find?
The public grasps the severity of the situation
Sixty-two percent of respondents described their local district’s current financial situation as very or somewhat difficult, with 77 percent of these individuals reporting that the financial challenges will last for quite a while.
Many support change
Almost half of respondents (48 percent) said that, if their own district were facing a serious budget deficit, the best approach would be “to cut costs by dramatically changing how it does business.”
Reformers have their work cut out for them
While the public is amenable to change, many of education reformers’ pet proposals face skepticism, particularly reducing non-teaching staff and tapping the potential of digital learning.
Not all cuts are equally popular
What policies had the most public support?
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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