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Monday, January 09, 2006

Reducing school administration costs

The governor has put forward a plan to require school districts to spend at least 70% of their budgets in the classroom as opposed to on administration. While I don't like micromanagement of local units of government, I guess I don't have any philosophical problem with requiring districts to spend this much in the classroom (although 70% seems arbitrary to me: why not 69%? 72%? 75%?).

The only thing that bugs me is that the administration costs include staff development. Training for our teachers should not be shortchanged.


At 10:03 PM, January 09, 2006, Blogger edgaralgernon said...

In some odd way... this is where I agreed with Ventura, though he didnt' seem to have a good plan.

In other words, make the school districts acountable for where the money was spent. Sure spend more on the teachers and the resources they need. But more importantly, show the public where the money is going and why.

I think better decisions could be made... or at least more informed ones.

At 11:03 AM, January 10, 2006, Blogger Wm said...

i believe this law has been talked about elsewhere. Ohio, I think. only it was a 65% requirement that they tried to pass...

70% does seem high. I'd guess it's an extreme proposal that puts a bargaining chip on the table, and Pawlenty would want a "compromise" with 60% down the line.

At 12:01 PM, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Victoria said...

This is an election-year trick, nothing else.

The three largest school districts in the state (Anoka-Hennepin, St. Paul and Minneapolis) already spend more than 70% of their budgets on "classroom activities." This fight has, for the most part, already been won.

And these are three of Minnesota's least successful school districts in terms of testing, graduation rates and college-going, for what it's worth. here is simply no statistical relationship between the percentage of budget spent on classroom activities and the success of students. Too many other factors are more important.

The proposal implicity suggests that work done out of the classroom is unimportant (or at least a lot LESS important).

And we know that's not true. It's the wrong fight. Minnesota ranks 49th in terms of the ratio of students to school counselors. Students who have access to a counselor are significantly less likely to drop out of school and significantly more likely to successfully apply to college. That's a proven relationship.

Professional development for teachers (both improving pre-licensure and ongoing training) has a significant effect on test scores.

Access to computers, libraries and other media have significant effects on test scores and college-going rates.

Pawlenty doesn't expect this to go anywhere. He expects it to bring light to his work in education, and to force DFLers into voting (or speaking out) against "more funding for classrooms."

He's no dummy, but he is insincere.

At 6:13 PM, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Lynnell Mickelsen said...

This is Mary Cecconi's take on Guv. 70 percent solution. Cecconi, a former member of the Stillwater School Board, is on staff of Parents United For Public Schools, a non-partisan group of parents. I'm a member. And Mary Cecconi is one smart chick.

Anyuhow, here's her take:

The 70% Game
Last year, you might remember that legislation was introduced to mandate that schools use 65% of their funds “in the classroom.” The legislation went nowhere. This idea reemerged Monday, January 9, at a press conference held by Governor Pawlenty.

This idea may sound great, but like any other top down, unfunded mandate, it warrants investigation. First, using the definitions that the Governor demands, on average school districts in Minnesota already spend 69.2% “in the classroom.” This may be why the 65% legislation that is being attempted in many states, from a group called First Class Education, has been upped to 70% in Minnesota.

Let’s take a look at what the Governor calls “in the classroom.” According to his press release, “Non-classroom expenditures would include district and school administration and support services, operations and maintenance, staff development, pupil and instructional support services….” Now, it appears that that means the lights, heat, the very schools our children attend, teacher training, and librarians are not essential to the education of our children. So where are the kids supposed to learn? And what are the teachers supposed to be teaching? And why not just turn the lights and the heat off now? It was inferred that this was a way to increase school funding by $112 million—really?

And even under these definitions Minnesota spends more on classroom instruction than any other state according to a Standard and Poor’s Report out this last summer. The following are excerpts from the report:

“Interestingly, the 65 Percent Solution comes at a time when many education reform initiatives place their emphasis on measurable student outcomes, as opposed to financial inputs. Yet, the 65 Percent Solution is an input-driven initiative, without any measurable outcome, such as a quantified achievement goal or targeted return on resources. This raises the question of whether there is empirical evidence that allocating more money to instruction will necessarily result in higher student achievement.”

“Minnesota had by far the greatest percentage of districts that already allocate at least 65% of their operating budgets to instruction. Thus, the state is a prime test case for examining the relationship between spending allocations and student performance in detail.”

“Just as there is no observable relationship between spending more than 65% on instruction and high student performance, there is also no significant correlation between spending any minimum percentage on instruction and student performance.…For example, five districts in Minnesota spent 57.1% of their operating budgets on instruction. Student proficiency rates among those five districts ranged from 66.1% to 82%.”

“In sum, the data show that there is no minimum instructionalspending allocation that necessarily produces higher student achievement. However, these findings do not suggest that ‘money doesn’t matter’, or that school districts should not dedicate as much of their resources as possible to the classroom. This is a laudable goal, but the percentage allocated to instruction may need to vary from one district to another for legitimate reasons. “ --School Matters, A Service of Standard and Poor’s

At 10:47 AM, January 11, 2006, Blogger Kevin from Minneapolis said...

LMAO at non-partisan and Mary Cecconi in the same sentence.

She stood with the DFL last year when it announced it's (unfunded) education plan and said the following:

"I know that for parents, we don't want to look back and see that our children's futures were sacrificed for some ill-advised pledge to a powerful special interest group."

But then again I can see your point. Nonpartisan means "agree with the DFL" so then, ya, I suppose she is nonpartisan.


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