April 8, 2008

Should schools borrow the best or the worst from business?

Today, Florida TaxWatch issued a set of recommendations for cost cutting in education (hat tip), and one quotation put in a separate box stood out for me, from Florida TaxWatch's Center for Educational Performance chair David Mann:

Education should borrow from business practices:...
As Good to Great author Jim Collins might ask, that's all fine and dandy, but do you want schools to borrow from good business practices or bad business practices? It strikes me that we're in a recession because of a bunch of pretty lousy business practices. Should schools follow down that path?

In particular, the report focused on the proportion of school spending that goes towards food, transportation, air conditioning, and other expenses, noting that in Florida, 19.7% of funding is reported for these categories, in contrast to 17.8% for the U.S. as a whole. Maybe we're higher than average on those categories because a higher proportion of children in Florida are poor, plus we have county-wide school districts and choice programs that involve busing, plus we have higher air conditioning costs because we're in Florida. For goodness' sake, it's well known in the state that our governor has a fan with him at all spots because he doesn't want to be shown sweating. (I don't want to know what temperature his offices are kept at. Wait a minute: I'd love to know, but maybe his office wouldn't want us to know. Any reporters out there, my guess is that thermostat settings are public records...)

Then there are recommendations that make little sense, such as one to maximize economies of scale. Florida has county school systems, a centralized system of data warehousing, etc. I view that recommendation as hand-waving. Or the proposal to outsource more; haven't we had enough scandals with Florida's privatization in the past decade?

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Posted in Education policy on April 8, 2008 3:45 PM |