Economic Downturn Spells Trouble for Schools (and ed tech)

As the numbers of housing foreclosures continues to rise… 2,203,295 foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were reported on 1,285,873 properties nationwide during the year, up 75 percent from 2006.

…and the housing market plummets,

…gas prices climb to near $4.00 per gallon.

…and consumer confidence in the economy hits all time lows,it’s easy to see that hard times lay ahead for our schools.

At the same time the $9.2 trillion dollar Federal deficit continues to grow at unprecedented rates:


Our national priorities are reflected in the following categories of our Federal budget:



Health and Human Services (not including Social Security), National Defense, and interest on the National Debt top our national agenda in terms of spending.

Locally, public school systems funded primarily from property taxes, are pushing troubled homeowners to their wits end with annual increases in school budgets that seemingly have no end. Even as their homes are losing their value, and many state budgets, running deficits, trim their aid to local schools; it is the local property owner that is left picking up the slack.

I remember a quote I heard once and it seems like it fits:

“As the waterhole begins to dry up the animals regard each other differently.”

At social gatherings I am hearing more conversations from people I respect searching for some way out of the pressure of growing tax burdens.

What if we cut the number of administrators?

What if teachers didn’t get pay raises? If we can’t afford it, then they should take a hit, too.

There has to be waste and fat in the school budget. They hide it. So I’m just gonna send them a message and vote ‘No” on the next school budget referendum.

Let’s cut the arts and anything that is not a core subject.

We need to sell our homes and move to an area where taxes are lower.

These are the reasonable conversations; the ones with parents with kids in the schools. The unreasonable conversations are downright scary.

So here we are with nothing but ‘red ink’ as far as the eye can see at the Federal and State levels, an economic downturn that may soon reach ‘recession’ proportions, homeowners losing their homes, losing the equity in their homes, and feeling like they are barely making ends meet…at the same time we need massive investments in our schools, as well as health care, our electrical grid, our transportation infrastructure, alternative energy, and so many other items important to our long term well-being as people and as a nation.

It’s not a pretty picture.

I believe that as the waterhole continues to shrink, that we, as educational leaders, do what we can to come to consensus on what we believe is essential to the future of our kids’ education. How can we create a new narrative that is more than

“If we had more money, we could solve most of the problems”.

It’s time to begin working together in new ways. It’s time for new ideas to spring forth. We need to articulate the value of the public schools in ways that the public can understand. We have to build strong bonds of trust with the community. Perhaps there are better ways of financing public schools.

As with most crisis situations, this financial crisis offers us the opportunity for new learning and new possibilities. We need not be afraid of the approaching storm, but we should begin preparing for how we are going to use it to propel us into a new age of public education.



One thought on “Economic Downturn Spells Trouble for Schools (and ed tech)

  1. It’s time for transparency in our schools. We need to actively invite parents and community members to see what is really happening, and not just the polished-up performance of open house. They should have availability to talk to teachers, see what’s being used in the classrooms, and see the unsavory parts of run-down buildings. Once they know that teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pockets for the classroom, children are using textbooks that are 10 years old and falling apart, and mold in back closets, then they’ll be more willing to support schools financially. We should be more afraid of what will happen to us once we run out of money to operate than afraid of what our community might think about the things in our schools that aren’t up to snuff.

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