2Why is our current system not built to be efficient? There are many layers to theanswer, but the most basic is that our system does not require, or even allow,schools to count the cost of what they do. Even if school leaders wanted to make themost effective use of every penny, they would not have the basic information theywould need, about what different people, resources, and processes cost.The same is true at the district level. Districts do not track how much is spent at theschool level or on centrally administered programs and services, in a detailedmanner which would allow them to make meaningful efficiency/productivitycalculations. Districts can create estimates of how much is spent per school or perpupil, but these depend on simple averaging operations
for a school that meanstotal district expenditures divided by the number of students in the district multiplied by the number of students in the school.Results based on averaging are at best weakly linked to reality, since 1) in Texas thebroad spending category
accounts for over half of total spendingin a district and these are unevenly distributed among schools; 2) some schoolshave more resident programs and resources (e.g. tutors, counselors, enrichment specialists) than others; and 3) some schools have more teachers per pupil thanothers, and 4) some schools
often those that also have disproportionate numbersof teachers and resident special programs
also have more highly paid teachersthan other schools in the same district.Thus, even if educators wished to calculate efficiency, and judge they could not do sowith the information available.
Mandates tie up funds arbitrarily
The lack of data is just the tip of the iceberg. In general, schools are required to dothings that have been mandated without any consideration for their cost orconsequences for school performance. Moreover, these mandates must be fulfilledeven if people in schools see better ways to use the resources available to them.
I won’t try to provide a comprehensive list of such mandates here.
But exampleswill help.
See, for example, Chubb, John E., Overcoming Governance Challenges in K-12Online Learning, in Finn, Chester E. and Daniela Fairchild,
Education Reform for theDigital Era
, Washington, the Thomas Fordham Institute 2012, pp.99-134/; Hill, PaulT., Picturing a Different Governance Structure for Public Education
in Manna, Paul and Patrick McGuinn (eds).
Rethinking Education Governance,
Washington D.C, Brookings Press 2012 (forthcoming). See also Murphy, Joseph,
Governing America’s Schools: The Shifting Playing Field,
Teachers College Record
Volume 102, Number 1, February 2000, pp. 57