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Can government aid bill keep schools afloat?

- August 20, 2010 - 0 Comments

Something truly interesting and rather unprecedented occurred in Washington, D.C. about a week ago. Members of Congress actually cut their recess short, returned from their summer vacation, albeit temporarily, and sat down to pass a bill that would deliver $26 billion in federal dollars to states.

This aid bill was intended to help states struggling with reduced tax revenue due to the economic downturn keep 161,000 teachers and thousands of police, fire and other local government workers from being laid off.

Unfortunately, the bill hasn’t completely gone according to plan. According to multiple news sources, many schools are not rehiring pink-slipped teachers and instead using the money as a safety net in response to fears of further economic downturns.

Aside from the unintended outcomes, isn’t this a symptom of a much more fundamental problem? Is the solution to keep throwing money at the same troubled system? Are we just buying time for the economy to get better so we can go back to the way it was?

Unfortunately, the budget situation isn’t expected to get better soon. In fact, according to Frederick Hess, director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, things are only going to get worse. In a recent article featured on AOL, Hess was quoted as saying, “The whole collapse of the last few years probably won’t filter though until 2013. I think it’s much more likely that you’re [going to] be looking at tight budgets into 2014 and beyond.”

There is a better solution! Instead of simply throwing money at states and schools in hopes of making it through the recession, the federal government could instead be working to change the way education does business. By reevaluating and identifying ways it could be more effective and efficient, we could streamline the system, cut costs overall and not need to write the first of what will inevitably be many checks.

One way to accomplish this is to look at the new technologies available to schools that enable them to do more with less and operate more efficiently. Video teleconferencing (VTC) is a great example.

VTC increases the range of teachers and enables them to teach more students, even over long distances. This enables schools to pool resources and share teachers. It also ensures that all schools have access to the same resources as others and levels the playing field. VTC can also cut the costs for professional development in schools by eliminating the need for teachers to travel for conferences and classes.

With 21st century skills and “flat-world” learners dominating education, can it ever go back the way it was? We think not.

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