5 Cost-Saving Ideas for Your District
The Coronavirus dealt a massive financial blow to Local, State, and Federal governments. With that comes the tough consequence of shrinking budgets, even for education. The 2019/2020 Foundation Allowance Funding was $8,111 per student for most school districts. With districts across Michigan expecting a cut of about $700 per student both this year and next, that means an 8.6% reduction across the board. And that doesn’t account for another $1 billion in new costs to help mitigate the continued spread of the virus.
These are tough times to be sure, but our team is always at work to help Michigan schools succeed in their mission to educate our children. This week, we assembled a list of five ways you can save money right now and in the future.
Adopting some of these recommendations may actually increase your technology spending. But we believe that technology is a valuable asset and that strategic investment in it will create a net reduction in your costs overall. Modern education technology tools can also greatly enhance the learning experience, creating positive change in a world that seems so full of negatives. If you’re facing tough choices, keep reading and see if any of these ideas can help you bridge the gap in the upcoming year.
A Note About CARES Funding
Before we get to the cost-saving suggestions, we wanted to make a few important points about the CARES Act, a $2 Trillion stimulus package passed by the federal government. The CARES Act allocated a total of $13.2 billion for K-12 education. Michigan should see about $390 million, roughly in line with the state’s proportion of the national population. Money will be allocated to districts that have previously received Title 1 dollars, but it’s important to know that this is not Title 1 funding and comes with different rules and regulations. Funding can be used in twelve ways. We’ll list a few below, but you can read them all here.
- Coordination and Preparedness for Coronavirus outbreaks
- Sanitation supplies
- Planning for and coordinating for long-term closures including remote learning and meal distribution
- Purchasing Educational Technology including software, hardware, and connectivity that helps districts facilitate substantive interaction between students and instructors
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Five Ways to Cut Costs in Your District
People, space, and equipment are your largest expenses. Social distancing protocols will require additional space, which budget cuts will make very difficult. The same budget cuts will also force many districts to operate with fewer personnel. With basically the same number of students, that will spread the remaining staff even thinner. Finally, limited budgets mean limited ability to purchase the equipment that would solve some of the space and staff challenges. That’s why we decided to compile this list of cost-saving ideas.
We hope that some of these ideas will help you meet the coming challenges and provide an outstanding educational experience for your students. Two of our ideas can help you immediately, while the other three are long-term cost savers. Either way, we hope that they will ease any negative effects of the upcoming budget cuts.
- Lease Computer Hardware or Other Equipment: Rather than buy it all at once, there are vendors who work on a lease-to-own basis. This will help reduce this coming year’s capital expenditures by spreading them out over time.
- Teacher Sharing: If you have multiple schools that teach the same class, you can use one teacher to teach multiple classrooms of students and record those lessons for later distribution.
- Preventative Health: Craft a detailed plan for building cleaning as well as student and teacher screening and testing. Reducing the spread of Coronavirus now can save a great deal down the road.
- Smooth Hybrid Learning: Make sure your hybrid learning model has the kinks ironed out before students return to the classroom. Extra planning and training now will save countless staff hours during the year.
- Build Digital Archives: Don’t reinvent the wheel or re-teach a lesson. Capture and save lessons so that they can be re-used and archive teaching materials so that your staff don’t have to spend time re-writing them in the future.
Now let’s look at each one of these ideas in more detail so that you can see how they will help you cut spending without cutting the quality of your students’ education.
Two Ways to Save Money Right Now
Our first two cost-saving recommendations can help you right now.
Leasing Hardware or Equipment
One big way to free up cash flow right now is to change any hardware purchases into lease agreements. Many technology vendors even offer lease-to-own programs. These programs allow you to spread the cost out over two to three years and still own them thereafter. As more schools and districts shift toward one-to-one computing, the large capital expense of thousands of laptops can eat up a lot of your limited resources. And when resources become even more scarce, that threatens the feasibility of one-to-one computing. By shifting your strategy to a lease program, you can reduce your up-front cost while building up equity in the devices for long-term ownership and value.
We want to be clear that a lease-to-own plan will end up costing more over the long term. There’s always a premium for convenience. If your long term budget can’t handle that, we also recommend looking into previously leased equipment. The cost may be lower, with the trade-off that this kind of equipment can break down more often. Our team can help you select the best resource for used equipment and maintain it over time to derive the greatest value possible.
No one likes the idea of layoffs, especially in a school. With such large cuts coming though, you will likely need to do more with less. One way to make the most of the staff you can keep on payroll is to share teachers between classrooms. What we mean is that, in a world now filled with virtual learning, one teacher can teach to multiple classrooms at one time. To maintain engagement with students, teacher aids or other non-certified teachers can supplement the instructor, at a lower cost, by doing things like answering questions and refocusing distracted students so that everyone gets the attention they deserve.
Part of this also means thinking about how to use space better. Some classes absolutely have to be taught in person but many classes work very well through remote instruction. If you can decide which classes to run strictly virtually, you can simplify your scheduling process and be more intentional about how you’re using each teacher and each classroom.
Three Ways to Save Money in The Future
The next three ideas will help you save precious budget dollars over the long term. They might not save much in the next three months, but if done effectively, they could prevent larger expenses in the future.
Preventative Health Measures
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s exactly what we mean here. Rigorous screening, testing, and cleaning protocols can help you reduce the spread of COVID-19. Detroit Public Schools Community District has already released plans calling for daily student screenings, staff testing, shorter days, and smaller class sizes. Keeping COVID-19 at bay will mean healthier students and staff, lower healthcare costs, and less interruption to instruction. And if we can get past COVID-19 together, we can hope for stronger future budgets and a return to normalcy.
Well Executed Hybrid Learning
We all know that learning will look different in the fall. Each school and district will handle it differently, but for the time being, most will follow some sort of hybrid learning model, with some students in the classroom, and some learning remotely. This, however, needs to be a carefully choreographed operation. Attendance tracking and engagement should be baked into your learning plan so that you can seamlessly report your Count Day figures and reduce the amount of time wasted on fixing processes on the fly. The better you can plan now, the more efficient you can be with staff hours later.
It’s also worth noting that when your school or district performs well under these trying circumstances, people notice. Everyone wants the best for their children. A well-executed hybrid learning plan will attract more family and students over the coming years which can help you grow and succeed as an organization too.
Building Digital Learning Archives
Don’t do the same thing twice. That applies to everything from lesson planning and instruction to assignment development and test writing. Capture and save every instructional asset you can and save them in an accessible archive so that you can capitalize on the time spent developing them. We think a lot about reusing and recycling our material resources. Let’s apply that same effort to academic resources too.
From an efficiency standpoint, we can create evergreen processes that will free up bandwidth in the future to invest in other aspects of hybrid environment. It’s a big up front investment that will pay off in a big way down the road.
Schedule a Consultation
There are many ways you and your staff can save money in the face of looming budget cuts. Our team of Education Technology experts can help you find the most effective places to invest where here and trim there without taking away from your students’ educational experience. Whether it’s sourcing cost-effective laptops for your one-to-one program or developing a new method for student accounting we have the resources and experience to help you succeed.
To schedule a free consultation, just use the contact information below. We look forward to collaborating with you as we all work together to make the most of a challenging environment.