The DeHavilland Blog

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Histrionics in education

I've been watching the annual school budget process unfold here in Charlotte, and it's hit a predictable point that gets played out in districts across the country every year: the district isn't getting everythingit wants, and as a result they're screaming that the children are going to be wearing burlap sacks and reading yellowed and outdated textbooks by candlelight.

From an article in the May 22 issue of
The Charlotte Observer:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools faces "potentially devastating cuts" if County Manager Harry Jones's budget plan goes through, Superintendent Peter Gorman said Wednesday.

Gorman offered no specifics on what he'd cut if county commissioners follow Jones's recommendation to give CMS $351 million in 2008-09 -- $10 million more than this year, but $18 million less than the school board wants. That's barely enough to cover enrollment growth and the opening of seven new schools in
August, Gorman said.

"This could represent potentially devastating cuts ... that would have a negative impact on student achievement," he said. "We've got a real battle ahead of us."

Can we stop pandering to the public with these kinds of histrionics?

While the Charlotte market hasn't felt the subprime crunch like many others have, these are still tight times. Regardless, Gorman is asking for an 8.2% increase in funds from the county. When told he can only have an increase of 2.9%, he runs screaming to the cameras to tell parents how their children are going to suffer.

There's no talk of looking for efficiencies, or of reviewing existing programs to see what could be cut. In fact, the county manager asked Gorman what he would do under different budget scenarios, and Gorman refused to answer the question.

Let me be clear: I like a lot of the things I've seen from Gorman. He's been exceptional in reaching out to the community, and has made a lot of moves that could improve student achievement - some not particularly popular, like moving district-level people into the classroom and moving teachers into high-need areas.

But this kind of overacting is counterproductive, and crying wolf like this is going to destroy the credibility he needs when things do become difficult. A 30% cut in funding would be devastating; getting a 2.9% increase instead of the 8.2% you wanted in a down year is no such thing.

2 Comments:

  • "There's no talk of looking for efficiencies, or of reviewing existing programs to see what could be cut. In fact, the county manager asked Gorman what he would do under different budget scenarios, and Gorman refused to answer the question."

    Thank you for this statement. The tax-paying public needs to demand higher/better accountability from its public school leaders just like it should from government in general. This is where these systems could learn from the private system to do audits, end-to-end reviews, top grading, etc. Eliminate the waste -- ineffective people, positions, programs, etc --produce the results with out students and I believe the money will flow freely. Without this level of accountability and transparency why should public schools be funded more and more every year just because they have an antiquated system of how their "fixed" expenses work. Ugh!

    By Blogger din819go, at 5:58 AM  

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