Monday, November 2, 2009

Cuts, Cuts, Everywhere:
Even Principals Get the Ax

Just when we thought that budget cuts could not cut deeper, our hurting economy is forcing schools and districts to dig deeper for line items to chop. No longer is it possible for most districts to get by with a little creative number-crunching. In order to cut more dough from the bottom line, some programs have to go. Students will feel the impact of those cuts, and more.

Some of the cuts we have read about recently make sense in trying times, but others verge on the absurd. Here we have rated just a few of the cuts we’ve read about from

cuts whose time has come


cuts on the verge of ridiculous.


In some states, the troubled economy is breathing new life into talks of school district consolidation. Merging small districts is one way to save taxpayers' dollars, state education officials say. Merging purchasing and other functions between districts -- even larger districts -- can be another way to affect taxpayer savings. (read a related news story)

One California school district has opted to cut funding for eighth-grade graduation ceremonies from the budgets of their seven middle schools. The ceremonies have gotten bigger and more expensive over the years, they say. This cut is one whose time has come. Even the students seem to enjoy some of the other eighth-grade celebrations -- including dances, T-shirts, yearbook signing parties, honors nights, and other in-school award ceremonies -- more than the elaborate formal graduation ceremony. (read a related news story)

As the financial situation tightens for districts and families, droves of schools are cutting field trip monies from their budgets. Let’s face it: like graduation ceremonies, some trips have priced themselves out of reach for families -- and taxpayers. More and more, school parent associations are asking businesses to partner in an effort to save field trips. And schools need to pay attention to the real bottom-line when it comes to taxpayer-supported field trips: educational value. (read a related news story)

Dozens of school districts are charging teachers for appliances kept in their classrooms. Officials say that charging teachers who plug in coffeemakers, mini refrigerators, or space heaters can save districts tens of thousands of dollars a year. While we might question the need to penny-pinch in this way, we also know that electric bills have skyrocketed in recent years. Plus saving energy is always a good thing, and teachers can set an example by giving up some classroom appliances in favor of appliances kept in a central area. (read a related news story)

Teachers pay out of their own pockets for a wide array of school supplies. Now some schools are even charging teachers for the photocopies they print. Teachers are charged a penny a copy for copies in excess of their preset monthly allotments. That is a move that hurts all teachers, but especially first-year teachers who -- besides being paid at the bottom of the salary scale -- have not accumulated lots of teaching resources. Yes, all educators should seek ways to cut back on the amount of paper they use, but it’s time to put a stop to the plundering of teachers’ paychecks in this way. (read a related news story)

The school calendar has not escaped the ax. In Hawaii, most students will be attending school just four days a week for the remainder of this school year. A new labor contract that avoids layoffs in favor of furloughed instructional days is a cost-savings measure carried out on the backs of those who can least afford it: the students. Parents are furious -- and rightly so -- that a state already lagging in academic achievement would “willingly adopt the country’s shortest school year.” (read a New York Times opinion piece)


Given the current climate, it’s not surprising that districts would look everywhere they can to save money. Many districts have been forced to eliminate programs and teaching positions. Others have eliminated assistant principal positions, forcing principals to pick up additional responsibilities. Some have even assigned a single principal to lead two schools with an assistant principal or a lead teacher serving as the stand-in when the principal is out of the building.

While elaborate graduation ceremonies and expensive field trips might be budget items that warrant a second look, cutting into the principalship is education suicide. While principal-cide is not yet a clear trend, the movement could pick up steam if the economy doesn’t improve. If that happens, it’s time to whip out the research to “educate” school boards and the wider community about the power of a strong principal. A good starting point is the research undertaken by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL). Be sure to break out the McREL research about the impact of strong leadership on school success and student achivement if you hear the whispers of principalships in danger. In addition to the general impact of leadership, McREL identified 21 specific leadership responsibilities that correlate significantly to student achievement.


Leadership and Organization Development
Learn more about McREL's Balanced Leadership program, which has helped more than 10,000 leaders nationwide learn how to translate research into results in their schools.

Skilled Leadership the Key to Improving Test Scores, Study Says
Researchers at Seattle Pacific University surveyed 40 successful principals to learn why some schools succeed while others struggle to achieve. Included: Comments from researchers and principals.

Howdy, Neighbor! Collaborating With the District Next Door
Buying in bulk may be standard operating procedure for some companies and families, but what about school districts? Two Wisconsin districts have started sharing purchasing and ideas about saving time and money.

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