Spring Break was a perfect opportunity to reflect and reconsider how to implement change at our school that will be both meaningful, efficient, and impactful. Our accreditation visit confirmed and validated the positive teaching and learning that is happening at Hale Kula, but we know that we can never get too comfortable with what we're doing and how we're influencing students so they can have the tools they need to be successful in their future.
This past week, results of a survey of Hawaii public school principals were released to the media. The results were less divisive than last year probably because changes were made after last year's survey to decrease the requirements of the Educator Effectiveness System for teacher evaluations. This lessened the load for principals, but this year, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is taking its place as a source of concern. Additionally, the issue of empowerment - or lack of it - is still a major concern for school leaders. 5 out of 6 principals believe they are not empowered to lead their school. The Education Institute of Hawaii website states that 19 out of 20 principals believe that weighted student funding should be increased to 75%.
As principals, it is an expectation that we allocate sufficient funding for personnel, resources, supplies, maintenance costs, and other necessary expenses to run our school. When we have an increase in student enrollment, we have the extra resources to fund personnel to support our students or our programs, or we can expend funds on more expensive items such as technology. When enrollment doesn't meet projections, however, we are forced to make difficult decisions that impact students. Purchases may then be limited to necessities, often related to health and safety.
75% of the total funds allocated to the Department would be great, but is it realistic? The DOE takes money off the top for services such as student transportation and food services, programs that are essential but also money-losers. Without funding from government, these services could not sustain themselves because student revenue is such a small portion of what it takes to run programs like transportation and food services.
Schools do need additional funds especially to purchase items like technology devices or mobile labs or textbooks, if that is their preference. School districts are committing to the goals of Future Ready to put devices into the hands of every student, but how do we sustain such an ambitious initiative when we already are having to choose between art, RTI. physical education, or a mentor teacher? Personnel to support the six priority strategies of the Department means that other positions may have to be eliminated and that the budget for "extras" such as technology or learning resources may not be included in the school Financial Plan.
In this blog from Connect Learning Today, Eric Sheninger shares what he believes are 5 leadership problems for educators today. I agree that all are challenges that must be addressed if we are to provide our students with the kind of educational experiences that will prepare them to be successful in their world, now and in the future. To do that, though, schools need to be empowered and sufficient funds need to be allocated in order to personalize our school to meet the needs of our students. If we are going to be held accountable, we need adequate funding to support and engage all of our students and to personalize teaching and learning to educate the whole child.
What is the solution? More funding would be nice. Why isn't our Department getting more funding when everyone agrees that education will make a difference for our students and help them to achieve their goals and aspirations? Perhaps we also need to understand the intricacies of the budget and ask questions about why more funds aren't getting down to the schools. Is it because of the educational reforms and top-down mandates or the shrinking budgets that Eric Sheninger mentions as leadership problems? Or is it something else that we have little control over?
We owe it to our students to find out the answers. The more funds that come down to the schools, the more empowerment we have to try out new ideas and resources and to make a difference for our students.