Gates and USED on the same money saving path

This week, Bill Gates and Arne Duncan both gave speeches highlighting ways that school districts (and states) can save money by better allocating current dollars. While I agree with this avenue of thinking because it just makes sense, it’s also important to recognize that Gates and USED are supporting the same strategies. Too often the philanthropic community and the federal government have been at odds with each other, and by combining forces, success is much more likely.

States and districts must use the current financial constraints as a reason to reform how they track, distribute and use money. Programs that are not effective should be eliminated, and we must look at better ways to increase long-term capacity and sustainability within schools, the district, and state education agencies.

Duncan commented, “School officials should be using this crisis ‘leverage transformational change in the education system’ rather than seeking to balance budgets through shorter school years, reduced bus routes or other short-term fixes.”

Gates recognizes that making such systemic changes are not easy, “that it’s like kicking a beehive,” and that it will require significant political will at the top and support through the ranks. But, how else can we expect to get better results from students if we continue to fund the educational system the same way it’s been funded for the last 50 years (and that has contributed to the current abysmal state of many of our schools).

At the same AEI sponsored conference that featured Duncan, Nogales superintendent Shawn McCollough stated, “It’s not so much rocket science but more making tough decisions and being accountable for them,” adding that local interests and politics are often barriers to making the “right” budget choices. “We don’t need any more research on best practices. … We need leaders on the front lines who are willing to do what’s morally right from a fiscal perspective to put kids first.”

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