As a school administrator, I am more overwhelmed than ever before in my career. My fellow administrators and I are facing a school year with a lot of challenges. We are dealing with anxious students and frustrated parents. Our teachers need us to guide them, yet we don’t feel prepared to give them all the help they need. COVID-19 is requiring us to rethink every aspect of our school day. It’s a tough time to be in charge of a school.
To make matters worse, many schools are facing budget cuts at a time when there are increased costs and new expenses. There is a lot of pressure to make more school improvements with less funding than previous years.
All over our country, states have had to adjust their budgets to reallocate funds to deal with COVID-19 emergencies, such as rising unemployment and healthcare costs. Because of these shifts to the state budgets, school districts have lost funding they desperately need.
In Ohio, Governor Dewine cut $300 million from the K-12 school budget. School districts were then forced to make tough decisions. Centerville City Schools, one Ohio district, decided to cut 19 teaching positions and 2 administrative positions in response to the Governor’s announcement.
This is happening across the nation. California’s Governor Newsom announced a five-billion-dollar reduction in K-14 education. Georgia is proposing a 14 percent budget cut from their public-school funds. Over one billion dollars was cut from New York’s education budget. School districts are being forced to make adjustments based on these reductions.
Also, as student enrollment dips, many districts are losing money that is usually provided on a per pupil basis. Many students are transferring to online schools or opting to be homeschooled. This results in a substantial loss of money for their schools. According to the Pensacola News Journal, the Santa Rosa County School District in Florida had to fire or reassign more than 150 teachers because of millions of dollars in funding being lost due to enrollment reduction.
No matter what the cause of the financial losses, it is apparent that many school districts are hurting throughout America.
School budget cuts are always difficult to handle as an administrator. They’re especially difficult at this time when a global pandemic is turning education upside-down.
Schools that are reopening for in-person schooling need more funding than ever to provide a safe space for students. Schools are being asked to provide:
Schools that are opening remotely need funding to provide:
For districts doing a combination of in-person and remote learning, they have to offer all of these things listed above. It’s a lot to ask of districts—especially with limited funding.
So what can administrators do?
Administrators are definitely feeling the pressure to make sweeping changes in their districts to help balance the budget while also trying to install safety measures for students and staff. While this can seem impossible, there are some steps administrators can take to help.
Figure out what is required versus what is recommended. The CDC has made many recommendations, but they are not legally mandated. Although you want your school to be as safe as possible, some recommendations might not be feasible with your budget constraints.
Perhaps some businesses can donate extra supplies like pencils, pens, crayons, markers, posterboard, etc. This allows more students to have items, so they won’t need to share with others.
Sometimes the ideas for saving aren’t so obvious. Instead of an overhaul of the cafeteria to allow for more space at lunchtime, how about allowing kids to eat in the football stadium? Ask staff members to help brainstorm creative (and cost-effective) solutions.
When planning events, such as graduation, look for companies that offer purchase agreements and packages that are more budget-friendly. For example, Graduation Source is a great company that will work with administrators to provide excellent options for graduation regalia.
Encourage teachers to look for grants to help off-set expenses. There are grants for professional development opportunities, technology in the classroom, and more. If there is a need in the classroom, there just might be someone in the world who is passionate about it and ready to fund it.
School administrators have always faced tough decisions. During this global pandemic, administrators are being pressured to solve many of the issues in education on a limited budget. However, there is hope in this difficult time. Schools will survive, and even thrive, as they pull together resources to help their students and community members. Administrators have proven in the past that they can find a way to make schools successful even when money is tight. They will once again prove that they can do more even in times when they are given less.