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Ask Dr. Lynch: Balancing District Budgets

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

This week, Alycia, an educator in PA, asks:

I am a resident of Pennsylvania, and recently an at-risk school district exhausted all of its funds and can no longer afford to pay its teachers. In order for our public education system to become prosperous again, things need to drastically change.  How do you propose this issue be handled so that students in all communities can begin to receive the education that they deserve? 

ANSWER:  Alycia, thank you for your thought-provoking question. The children of Pennsylvania are lucky to have an education advocate like you, fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, the scene you described is replayed year after year in America and still, nothing changes. Usually, in this type of situation, one of three things is occurring— mismanagement of funds, underfunding, or both. Since I am familiar with the story, I would say that a combination of underfunding and mismanagement of funds is the main culprit.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

 How do we deal with situations like these?

The current school finance system focuses on maintaining programs and paying adults, not seeking the best way to educate our children. Schools should adapt within a fast-changing economy, but our system still needs to arrange funding in an equitable manner. Otherwise, our educational system will be unable to effectively and accountably use resources in planned ways. 

Critics of increased spending on education routinely highlight nationwide cases where major increases in funding were misspent, and provided little or no positive outcomes for student learning. Indeed, strong evidence exists that without adjustments in accountability and the distribution and use of resources, Americans will get a more expensive, though not necessarily more efficient, public education system.

Our children require and deserve a proper education, and we must strive to provide it to them. Therefore, whatever money is available for schools must be utilized in the most effective manner possible. What is most important is that we understand the deficiencies in our educational funding system, and strictly forbid placing blame – which rarely serves to encourage cooperation. Rather, we must demonstrate accountability for our situation and fulfill our responsibility to our children. Collectively, we must understand that it is up to us to work together and rise to the challenge of fully funding our educational system.

The future must be planned for—now. It certainly will not be an overnight process, but by taking positive, productive steps, one at a time, an enormous amount of ground can be covered in the coming years. If we simply work together, we can restore the U.S. educational system to its former preeminence, and give our children the bright futures they deserve.

Related resources

How Efficient is Your School Spending?
School Finance Analysis Reveals Secrets of Nation’s Most Productive Districts


About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.



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