The East Penn School District will spend approximately $138 million this academic year-- a lot of dough! One of my key concerns is whether the district is spending money in the most cost-effective ways, and in ways proven to make the biggest positive impact on students and our community.
There are many aspects of the budget in which local control has been taken away (see Passing the Buck [INSERT LINK] for some examples). But for those things we still can decide for ourselves, I believe we need to make evidence-based decisions based on facts and rigorous research.
Alas, one of the things I’ve learned in my four years on the school board is that this doesn’t always happen. People advocate for funding simply because we’ve always funded certain things. There are other times when funding proposals follow the latest educational fashion or new (untested) idea. Or there are some proposals that are politically popular, even if they don’t work very well.
Let me give a few examples:
The core point is simple: facts should matter. People of a certain age will remember the famous Wendy’s ad featuring an elderly woman repeatedly asking, “Where’s the beef?” In discussions of the school district’s budget, I think we should all be asking for more “beef”: facts and evidence to support the effectiveness of funding priorities. Without the beef, we end up with a budget that is both too expensive and that leads to poorer outcomes for students, teachers, and taxpayers. The budget should not be about “how it’s always been,” what is currently fashionable in education, or what is politically popular. For $137 million, it should be about what works.
Evidence-based decision making is just one piece of the larger budgetary puzzle in our district. To read the other pieces in this budget series, check out: