Improving Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight

This how-to guide from noted ed-school professor and school-budget expert Allan Odden offers some necessary advice for school administrators learning to wield their budget axes deftly (and a number of helpful examples of how districts are doing just that). Odden’s mission—for district leaders to make cuts intelligently rather than clumsily or politically—would lead to a radical shift in the K-12 spending paradigm. And it’s about time. His thoughts on ending across-the-board, quality-blind layoffs, nixing seniority-based salary schedules, and reconfiguring employee benefits are sage advice for all. But Odden fails to embrace the full slate of funding reforms needed to save school budgets while holding students harmless. A few of his recommendations are questionable at best: one-on-one or small-group tutoring as first resort for low-performing students is likely prohibitively expensive for districts, for example. And mindless minimum staffing levels prescribing “one librarian per school”—no matter the size of the school—are shortsighted. There are a number of worthy and actionable recommendations for hard-pressed school-budget officers in this volume. Just be wary of those suggestions that add, not delete, formula-based prescriptions for funding.

Allan R. Odden, Improving Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, A SAGE Company, 2012).

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