How Continued Austerity Could Scorch K–12 Technology Budgets
Education leaders are no strangers to tight budgets. The magnitude of the current austerity measures, however, dwarfs anything most CTOs have seen in their careers.
Since the recession began, states have shrunk their budgets by more than $430 billion: $110 billion in FY2009, $191 billion in FY2010 and $130 billion in FY2011. States are already reporting projected gaps of $113 billion for FY2012. A recent survey conducted by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) confirms that schools are bracing for an especially painful budget cycle this time around: “The unprecedented nature of this recession and its impacts on public education warrant two types of evaluation: short term and long term. While educators can already report on the number of jobs cut, the rising increase in class size, and current test scores, the long‐range impact has yet to be realized and studied. We are years away from knowing how the budget realities will impact the long‐term learning and achievement of today’s public school students, moving through a system experiencing unprecedented fiscal strain.”
Nearly four‐fifths (79 percent) of the districts AASA surveyed anticipated a cut in state/local revenues again for the 2012–13 school year, compared to 15 percent expecting level funding and 4 percent expecting a funding increase.
Belt-tightening actions that superintendents cited most frequently include:
• Altering thermostats (62 percent)
• Eliminating non‐essential travel (57 percent)
• Reducing staff‐level hiring (48 percent)
• Cutting consumable supplies (48 percent)
• Increasing class size (36 percent)
• Deferring maintenance (36 percent)
• Reducing instructional material (35 percent)
• Postponing technology purchases (34 percent)
The data from the survey of administrators indicate that the stop‐gap efforts to avoid job cuts were short lived and that reductions in force will continue to be a reality over the next few school years.
Technology budget cuts are especially worrisome, given that technology already is an understaffed, underfunded enterprise in K–12 schools, according to ongoing surveys of school technology leaders conducted by SchoolDude.com, in partnership with CoSN. Respondents to this late 2010 survey indicate an average of 818 computers per technician, while their computers are aging with the decimation of refresh policies. As computers age and information technology (IT) support gets thinner, problems remain unresolved for an extended time or are left to users, who are expensive and untrained in resolving technology issues.
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