School was a little different for Hawaii’s 170,000 public school students last Friday. In fact, it didn’t exist. That’s because last Friday was the first of 17 scheduled furlough days for Hawaii’s 13,000 public school teachers. These furlough days were designed to help reduce the state’s budget deficit and will make its school calendar the shortest of any in the United States.
Like many states, Hawaii’s economy is hurting during the ongoing economic downturn and the state budget shortfall is causing significant cuts across the board. Unfortunately, the latest and deepest cut is one that may be more counterproductive than lawmakers realize.
With the country’s economic situation steadily, if not slowly improving, new jobs are on the horizon. However, the ability to lure new businesses and jobs to the state often comes down to the availability of a well-trained workforce, and cutting education funding is one way to ensure that your state’s workforce is not prepared to compete in the global economy for available jobs.
We understand Hawaii’s desire to work towards a balanced budget without cutting the jobs of school faculty and staff, but there’s a better way to cut education costs without sacrificing the quantity and quality of the education being provided. Video teleconferencing (VTC) is an effective, lower-cost solution of educating students in a way that is just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional schooling.
By utilizing VTC solutions, school systems can increase the effectiveness and range of each teacher by having them teach multiple classes via video. This allows schools to address teacher shortages without the need to hire additional resources. This also allows schools in remote or geographically isolated areas to offer a wider range of subject and classes that they originally didn’t have the staff to offer. This can enable schools to continue to offer arts and other classes and electives via video that may have been too costly to continue.
In addition to increasing the effectiveness of each teacher and providing flexibility in scheduling and additional teaching resources to schools, VTC also enables teachers to continue their education in a way that is less expensive and inconvenient to school systems. As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, professional development for teachers via VTC allows them to stay on top of the latest teaching techniques and advances without a need for expensive travel and substitute teachers.
If you’re not completely sold on the benefits of VTC in educational environments, simply look at Arkansas. The State of Arkansas’ distance learning and video initiative has allowed small districts the opportunity to offer courses they otherwise would not be able to offer and has provided a richer educational experience when one would be unavailable due to a scarcity of funds or resources.
The recent decision for teacher furloughs and to close schools for 17 days is not only a poor one, but an unnecessary one. Less school is not only harmful for students, but damaging for Hawaii’s economic future. There are alternatives like VTC. Can Hawaii really afford not to explore them?