This week a Utah lawmaker proposed eliminating 12th grade to cut $102 million annually because "You're spending a whole lot of money for a whole bunch of kids who aren't getting anything out of that grade" and who have "either got one foot in AP classes in college, or they're just running around taking P.E." I could go on about the wrong-headed ideas of ignorant politicians who don't back up their emotional outbursts with facts, but it's not just them. In some states, districts have eliminated buses to save costs, with parents sometimes agreeing because, they say, they used to walk a mile each way when they were kids...probably in three feet of snow! Many states, including California, are considering reducing the budget by eliminating school days, targeting teacher professional development days. Hawaii has already cut away to the bone and still needs to cut more.
I know school budgets must be slashed, but as district leaders dig deeper for savings, they will hopefully go about it in a thoughtful, analytical manner. The 'low hanging fruit' has been picked. Decision-makers can look to business for the right approaches. During tough times in business, good companies don't just slash and burn to eliminate costs, and layoffs are often the last resort after everything else is tried.
The tools corporations use can be applied to school districts just as easily. Process analysis, for example, can help central office administrators identify non-value add activities that can be eliminated while making work efficient and ready for automation. Root cause analysis can help identify the source of problems that waste staff time and effort, and process redesign can permanently eliminate them. Pareto analysis can identify the not-so-obvious savings in the budget that may be overlooked because of 'sacred cows' being hidden from view.
Bringing sensibility to budget-cutting using these tools and many others, can keep sanity in the decision-making process with the data to back it up. It's time for legislators, school boards, and district leaders to learn from business. It won't be that painful, really.