A Penny Saved: How Schools and Districts Can Tighten Their Belts While Serving Students Better

January 11, 2010 - 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
The Mayflower Hotel
1127 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
United States

The 2008-2009 economic tsunami has slashed tax collections, squeezing government and forcing public agencies to search out cost savings. The nation's K-12 schools, which depend upon $600 billion in local, state, and federal funding, have been buffeted by declining revenues after decades of steady increases. A recent National Council of State Legislators report finds that half of the states are anticipating a cumulative shortfall of $144.8 billion for the fiscal year 2010. How can they weather this storm and prepare themselves for even leaner times? Where might they find cost savings? Are there alternatives to simply cutting back educational programs or laying off teachers? The pressures are not likely to alleviate anytime soon but will only intensify in the years ahead as stagnant real estate values depress local and state revenues, as new federal initiatives and historic deficits squeeze federal spending, as one-time stimulus funding recedes; and as an aging and retiring teaching force creates greater pension obligations for states and districts. Not only is cost cutting essential in this era of constrained resources, but eliminating inefficient spending is also a critical step in freeing up the resources to drive reform and fuel school improvement.

Unfortunately, there are few visible or successful precedents for significant belt tightening, restructuring, and reorganizing in K-12 schooling. Yet, news accounts tend to celebrate new initiatives and bemoan any reductions in spending, and there is little research examining how best practices from other sectors might be applied to schools. AEI resident scholar and director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess and Thomas B. Fordham Institute vice president Eric Osberg have commissioned ten papers to explore how schools can save money and enhance student achievement by overcoming the particular forces and factors that make effective cost cutting difficult. At this cosponsored event, the authors of the studies will present their findings and discuss them with expert practitioners.

8:30 a.m.      Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00             Introduction:  Frederick M. Hess, AEI
                    Eric Osberg, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

9:10             Panel I: An Overview of School Spending
                    Presenters:    Michael Casserly, Council of Great City Schools
                    James Guthrie, George W. Bush Institute
                    Marguerite Roza, University of Washington

                    Discussants: Kartik Jayaram, McKinsey and Company, Inc.
                    José M. Torres, U-46 School District, Elgin, Ill.

10:40            Break

10:55            Panel II: What Savvy Leaders Could Do Differently
                     Presenters:    John E. Chubb, EdisonLearning
                     Steven F. Wilson, Ascend Learning

                     Discussant:    Michael Podgursky, University of Missouri, Columbia
                     Lisa M. Ruda, District of Columbia Public Schools

12:15 p.m.    Luncheon

1:15              Panel III: Evidence That Change Is Possible
                     Presenters:    Nathan Levenson, former superintendent of schools, Arlington, Mass.
                     Reginald H. Gilyard, The Boston Consulting Group         

                     Discussants:  William R. Hite Jr., Prince George’s County Public Schools
                     Michael R. Sandler, Education Industry Group

2:35              Break

2:50              Panel IV: Overcoming Barriers to Change
                     Presenters:    Stacey Childress, Harvard Business School
                     June Kronholz, formerly of the Wall Street Journal
                     Martin West, Harvard University

                     Discussants:  Lily Eskelsen, National Education Association
                     Dwight Jones, Colorado Department of Education

4:30              Reception

5:30              Adjournment