Value and Cost: Financial Planning and Cost Control
The value of good schools is far more important than their cost. However, cost is important. The financial side of education is much too large an issue to cover in a single chapter, so I will share three small points with you. One is an argument for the value of good schools in terms of America's international economic competitiveness and social progress. Second is an anecdote that points out the implications for property values, especially in America's big cities. Third is a model for financial planning and cost control to highlight the major economic factors in schools.
As stated earlier in this book, opportunities to improve the output side of education -- student learning, parent satisfaction, public confidence, teacher morale and productivity -- are more important than improvement opportunities on the cost side. Most schools, those in big cities excepted, are not top-heavy with bureaucracy. Most of them do a pretty good job of controlling costs in support areas such as buildings, maintenance, food service, school buses, and clerical operations. They are not perfect, and your district may have improvement opportunities, but if you think you are going to achieve substantial changes in the cost of education because of this, you are probably wrong. A major factor, of course, is the number of employees compared with the number of students, and in this respect you may find that fine-tuned analysis can help. I know districts that doubled the staff-student ratio without realizing it, and others who found an extra teacher in each department (just to be sure they were not understaffed after course selections were made).