Friday, January 23, 2009

Going Paperless and Budget Reductions

It is the season for budget cutbacks in K-12 education, and one thing I have noticed is the obligatory "brainstorming" sessions on ways to cut expenses not involving staffing reductions. Which, might be very effective at identifying wasteful areas, but probably won't do much to balance the budget shortfall. In K-12 institutions, generally around 85% of a budget is staffing.

And during these sessions, there are common suggestions. Turn off the lights. Use email to parents instead of spending on postage. And, try going paperless in the classroom.

There are two problems I see with this. First, the assumption is that there will be 100% implementation (everybody will turn out the lights precisely at 3:30, and voila! We'll save xx amount!). There won't be. You can't budget for energy savings just because a new policy has been instituted. Only after a year of looking at the effect of the policy on the operations of the school can you re-budget.

The second problem is this requires a pedagogical shift... which is a good thing. But, that assumes teachers are shifting their pedagogy. Which, again, takes time, not the least of which is to fully look at why this is good teaching. That pedagogy shift can not be predicated by a budget shortfall... it won't work.

My advice is to keep that in mind and inject a sense of realism in these sessions. Going paperless = good. But, you can't budget it.

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