Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

TV News Story Describes Practical Realities of Reopening

May 6, 2020 Comments off

This just in: when the pandemic ends schools will have smaller class sizes, more focus on cleanliness, fewer contact days, virtually no adults present other than school staff, and daily medical screenings. As this ABC local news report suggests, the medical screenings are more for the adults than they are for the children for Covid 19 impacts adults MUCH more than students.

What the news DOESN’T mention is the costs for this new format, which will be daunting. We’ve shown that we are willing to put pressure on politicians to open hair salons, stores, and restaurants. Are we willing to pay more for the safety of our children?

A Revenue Hole that Leads to Long Term Financial Cliff for Public Schools

April 30, 2020 Comments off

This article contrasting a wealthy NY county with a solid balance sheet with a poor LI county that operates a deficit illustrates the reality that unless the Federal government provides a massive injection of funding to offset lost revenues the impact will be devastating. The article makes no mention of another reality: state revenues for schools— affluent AND especially poor— are about to fall off a fiscal cliff, a cliff that would last for years if the “solution” of giving state governments a long term loan. It took nearly a decade for schools to recover from the “Great Recession”. Without a huge bailout for state governments it will take even longer to get a reasonable revenue stream for schools.

Coronavirus Collapse Compounds Impact of 2008 Revenue Meltdown

April 25, 2020 Comments off

This recent post from NPR included a statistic about post-recession college enrollment that I found to be simultaneously startling and unsurprising AND unsettling:

With less funding, colleges have continued to lean on tuition. But over the past eight years, college enrollment nationwide has fallen about 11%. Every sector — public state schools, community colleges, for-profits and private liberal arts schools — has felt the decline. Over the years, international students, who often pay full tuition, have helped. But now with travel restrictions in play, schools are expecting very few of them this fall.

I was startled to read that college enrollment declined over the past 8 years, but after thinking about it was not surprised. The cohort group of potential students was undoubtedly smaller during that time period AND the inequities of the economy combined with the numbers of students who could afford the ever increasing meant that the cohort of students who were capable of attending diminished. With the Coronavirus making “normal” fall semesters a 50/50 proposition and revenues plummeting already it’s not a pretty picture.

McKinsey Analysis of Post-Pandemic Public Schools Optimistic… and Naive

April 22, 2020 Comments off

The McKinsey Consulting group is generally staffed by young, bright, ambitious and creative young adults who bring their considerable talents to bear on big picture issues like strategic planning and ideas for the future direction a corporation might take. The only thing that hampers the teams is that they often lack a a real world grounding and the result of this is a naïveté that makes a jaded practitioner skeptical. The recent report from McKinsey on post-pandemic public schools is a good example of what I am talking about. The report offers an analysis of the future based on four broad priorities:

There are four priorities for school systems: maintaining health and safety of students, staff, and the community; maximizing student learning and thriving; supporting teachers and staff; and establishing a sound operational and financial foundation. In each case, we believe that issues regarding equity—that is, ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable are met—should be front and center, both during the closure and after students return to school.

This is a completely valid and realistic goal… but one that cannot be realistically accomplished given what lies ahead for public schools and the realistic scope of their ability to address the unarguably important “issues regarding equity“. A quick look at each of the four priorities illustrates the real word Inability of public education to address each:

  • Maintaining health and safety of students, staff, and the community: Given the lack of funding and the lack of agreement on the mission and purpose of public schools it is hard to believe that schools alone can do any of the above outside of their four walls.
  • Maximizing student learning and thriving: As noted in earlier posts, schools are currently ill equipped to address the needs of app students, especially those disengaged students whose interests are not addressed in school and those students who enter and attend schools while experiencing a succession of adverse childhood experiences. Without more money (see the last bullet), accomplishing this ambitious goal will be even more daunting.
  • Supporting teachers and staff: Money for schools and for safety nets outside of school would go a long way to make the working conditions more favorable for teachers and staff… and higher compensation would make the profession more attractive. Again, the final bullet is the most important one in order to fulfill this priority.
  • Establishing a sound operational and financial foundation: When I read the first sentence of the second paragraph of this section I was immediately convinced that the authors of this had never spent a minute talking to any public school leaders. The recommendation that “...schools start looking for savings in areas such as utilities and transportation, and asking vendors for discounts” is based on the naive notion that schools HAVEN’T done these things already! That recommendation must be a boiler plate one from the late 1970s, for that’s when I recall reading it in a journal for administrators and school board members. This just in, McKinsey: from 1980 onward the schools have been picking low hanging fruit in non-instructional areas and, alas, in some cases have NOT taken care of their infrastructure and basic needs because the funding for them has disappeared. And worse, the road ahead looks even more perilous for school funding.

The naive optimism that the application of business principles, the coordination among agencies, and the setting of clear priorities will create a better post-pandemic world is grossly naive. As written frequently over the past several week, this is not a time to try to “get back to normal” because the normal we are striving for is pre-2008 world that will never exist again. NOW is the time to determine how to create a new vision for public education, one that will need to operate on less money and, therefore, need to work ever more closely with parents, child care agencies, and the public at large.


Furloughs, Layoffs Begin at Colleges… K-12 Will Surely Follow

April 21, 2020 Comments off

Colleges and universities who closed this fall lost revenue right off the bat and some are having to lay off staff to get their budgets in balance. At some juncture in the not too distant future K-12 schools are going to have to be ready to make the same kinds of cuts. With workers on the streets and lacking the money they need to make ends meet they will be expecting schools to tighten their belts VERY soon!

Bail Out the States NOW

April 20, 2020 Comments off

I have read several articles about budget shortfalls for FY 2020 and the cuts states are facing in order to balance their budgets for the current year. And as FY 2021 unfolds in states, towns, and school districts it is clear that the revenue streams assumed when budgets were formulated in February are unlikely to materialize as the coming fiscal year unfolds. It doesn’t take a Ph.D in economics to see that a slow motion train wreck will occur unless States get a revenue infusion and it doesn’t require a background in political science to see that safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that the money is spent wisely. And you don’t need to have 29 years of experience as a school superintendent to see who will suffer the most if this doesn’t happen: it will be the children in those districts with the smallest tax bases, the ones who have never full recovered from the 2008 crash, the ones where voters are more and more frustrated with the lack of services they receive from the government.

The Federal Government needs to begin bailing out State governments now. For decades the “trickle down” throes of economics has been accompanied by a trickle down of responsibility and costs. Over time, the states have absorbed more and more responsibilities and gotten less and less revenue from the federal government. At the same time, Governors— particularly GOP governors— have run on tax-cutting platforms that incorporate the “trickle down” theories shifting an increasing amount of responsibilities to local governments. The chickens came home to roost after 2008 when states had to tighten their belts and many communities could not raise their taxes enough to sustain their services. Yes, small businesses need to be bailed and and Yes, individuals need stipends to tide them over. But it should be abundantly clear to federal legislators that States, too, need to be helped. And states, in turn, need to allocate the resources they get to the communities who are still reeling from the housing meltdown in 2008.

If state’s are NOT helped, they will be forced to make some very tough decisions as we are witnessing in reading the local accounts of New Hampshire and Vermont. Both states are drawing on their “rainy day” funds to get through this year and Vermont, which does a better job of thinking ahead, is contemplating the closure of its colleges and vocational schools to avoid revenue shortfalls. The 2021 revenues are very unlikely to materialize and when school districts and state agencies begin planning for 2022 they are going to face serious revenue shortfalls.

the time is now to address this problem by infusing billions of dollars to states… to wait will be disastrous.

Covid 19 on Already Closing Colleges… And Tougher Times Loom

April 18, 2020 Comments off

Earlier this week the NYTimes Anemona Horticollis wrote an article with this title:

The problem colleges and universities of all sizes and reputations are facing is that without residential students they lose funds immediately by virtue of refunding Spring Semester room and board, lose international students— perhaps for an extended period of time, and lose enrollments for the coming year because prospective students are reluctant to commit. This paragraph from the article describes the dilemma they face:

Already, colleges have seen their endowments weakened, and worry that fund-raising efforts will founder even as many families need more financial aid. They also expect to lose international students, especially from Asia, because of travel restrictions and concerns about studying abroad. Foreign students, usually paying full tuition, represent a significant revenue source everywhere, from the Ivy League to community colleges.

The article went on to offer examples of how large and small colleges are being impacted by the pandemic and how they are responding.

Meanwhile, our local newspaper today ran an article with this title:

Vermont state college plan would shutter 3 campuses, including VTC in Randolph

Vermont’s Chancellor’s office, looking at the losses mounting up as a result of refusing room and board to its students and declining enrollment projections decided to proceed quickly to stem the losses, closing down Northern Vermont University, which has campuses in Lyndon and Johnson, and consolidating Vermont Technical College’s operations onto one Williston campus. In closing one of its campuses, VTC would “...deliver its programming using low-residency, regional delivery and distance learning methods.” The article described the realities outlined above, realities that are especially devastating to taxpayer funded state institutions because state budgets are going to be strained in both directions in the current and future fiscal years. That is, state budgets will need to increase spending on health care issues and while losing tax revenues at the state and local level.

Both articles have one common conclusion: There are no easy answers. From an optimists perspective the makes NOW the time for re-defining what constitutes a college education. I am confident articles (and posts) on that topic are forthcoming…