Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spending on Student Learning

On January 21, 2009, I received an email from Dr. Tony Bennett, the newly elected superintendent of education for the State of Indiana, outlining his goals for improving education in Indiana. Basically, he has three goals: streamlining state operations, removing obstacles for local schools, and promoting policies to promote student learning. As expected from all politicians, these are noble platitudes and I will not cast aspersions on these goals. But I would like some clarification.

Under streamlining state operations, Dr. Bennett states, "We hope that many local school corporations will follow our lead in looking for ways to reduce administrative costs, thus freeing up more dollars that can be spent on student learning." Again, I do not argue with the concepts; I would like some specifics, starting with some discussion about what it means to spend money on student learning.

I could justify money as being spent on student learning when that money goes to teacher salaries, professional development costs, building expenses especially when the end result is the creation of new classrooms or learning spaces--i.e. media centers, distance learning facilities, etc. I can also justify spending money on technology, copy machines, paper, pencils--the list goes on, but it could all be justified as spending on student learning.

However, I have learned that it is not my definition that matters as much aqs it is the definition of those in charge. Teachers and administrators across the state will take steps to be certain that the money they have is spent on student learning only to discover that their expenditures do not meet the requirements of the Indiana Department of Education's goals under Dr. Bennett.

So, what does it mean to spend money on student learning?


  1. I don't have much to say on spending specifically but the quote that stood out to me on your blog was:
    "However, I have learned that it is not my definition that matters as much aqs it is the definition of those in charge"
    That could not be more true in all aspects of the current educational system and therein lies the difficulty. Each layer, each costituent can point to someone else "in charge" and the buck stops nowhere. Worse than no one person being in charge or being responsible is that no two groups, two layers, or two constituents communicates or collaborates for effective change.
    I look forward to following your blog!

  2. Thanks for the comment. I believe that in a simplistic way, we are all either product people or process people. Process people are about collaboration.