Partnership Zone Spending: The Good, The Curious, and The Cautiously Optimistic

February 3rd, 2011

Category: News

Partnership Zone schools are moving forward with their approved plans (Howard, Stubbs, Glasgow, and Positive Outcomes) for spending approximately $1.5 million to turn their schools around. In analyzing three budgets (Howard’s plan does not include one), there are certain areas that make me cautiously optimistic, areas that make me slightly curious, and others that require further consideration.

Budget allocations that make me cautiously optimistic include allocations for extended learning time. Stubbs is allocating over $300,000 (45 percent of their funds) for extended learning time, including a two-week Summer Program.  This is almost $1000 per student, which could make a significant difference.

Budget allocations that make me slightly curious include Stubbs’ iPad and computer purchases ($40,000, almost 5 percent of their budget—will the technology spur an increase in performance?) and Positive Outcomes’ alternative compensation system that amounts to only $15,000 (approximately 2 percent of their budget—is this enough to make a difference?).

And finally, budget allocations that would require further consideration would be Positive Outcomes plans to spend $75,000 (over 8% of their budget) on aerobic/anaerobic equipment for their students (will this make a significant difference? could the equipment be purchased at a reduced rate or donated?). And Stubbs and Glasgow are splitting the costs ($75,000 and $100,000 – which is 9.5 and 11.5 percent of their budgets, respectively) to hire a Coordinating Partner that will be evaluated on student performance while only being able to support the school in critical decisions, such as management, budgeting, and staffing.

While these amounts might seem trivial on the whole, analyzing the trade-offs and/or alternative uses of these funds is enlightening.  For example, for $75,000, additional staff could help differentiate instruction.  Or for $40,000, a tutoring program could target specific sets of students on a daily or weekly basis. 

It is our hope that districts utilize one Lead Partner, who is accountable for results, to ensure every dollar is spent with the singular focus of increased student learning in mind.  If not, these funds could be spent in curious, and potentially inconsequential, ways – leading us down the same path that put us here in the first place. 

Brett Turner



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