Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated measures, government revenues have been falling, leading to budget deficits. To compensate for this damage, lawmakers have implemented funding cuts across various agencies, requiring them to work within the newly imposed limitations. Missouri’s schools are among the institutions that will need to operate with a budget shortage due to the state’s budget reductions. However, as essential facilities for children’s education, they have to adhere to stringent quality standards and ensure that they maintain their students’ academic performance. As such, the problem currently posed before the public education system is one of reorganizing so that the same results can be achieved with lower costs. This essay will consider the stakeholders and the potential resolutions before introducing several potential answers to the issue.
A variety of different stakeholders is involved in the management of schools and have some influence on how they operate. Their principals and administrators tend to make the overarching policy decisions, though they need to comply with state and national requirements while doing so. The teachers interact with the students, design the curricula, and conduct the testing, all of which require adequate accommodations. The children’s parents communicate their opinions on the education being provided in schools and the changes that need to be made. Through organizations such as parent-teacher associations, they can exert substantial influence on how a specific school operates. Lastly, the community as a whole is a vital stakeholder in the long term. People who live in it or choose to move in want to have excellent education opportunities for their children and expect schools to deliver them.
There are three potential resolutions for the situation: nothing changing, education quality worsening, and it remaining the same or improving despite the cuts. As Tabeling (2020) explains, no cuts have been decided upon yet, and at the earliest, any such reductions would apply to start in July 2021. As such, while it is slim, there is the possibility that school budgets will remain unchanged, and the problem will resolve itself. However, a more likely scenario, particularly if schools do not take proactive action in response, is that with lower budgets, particular aspects of education will be eliminated. This change is particularly likely to affect services such as special education, which appeal to fewer children and may therefore be considered low-priority expenses. Schools should work toward the third resolution to avoid such effects, finding ways to optimize their cost-efficiency to operate within new constraints comfortably.
It is unlikely that schools can find the resources they need to compensate for the losses caused by budget cuts. The pandemic is affecting everyone, which is reflected in the lower tax revenue that Missouri is collecting and distributing as a budget. However, the changes associated with COVID-19 also offer valuable cost-saving opportunities, especially in the short term. Since most classes are currently conducted online, the number of activities performed in schools has dropped dramatically, potentially to near-zero. As such, schools can cut services such as the cafeteria and minimize the cleaning since substantially less dust and dirt are generated. With that said, doing so would presumably entail letting go of the staff responsible for these tasks, which is not necessarily advisable. Moreover, once the restrictions end and students return to school, all of these services will need to be reestablished again, and, therefore, this solution will not be effective in the long term.
An alternate option that takes more variables into account would be participatory decision-making. Typically, workers in managerial positions such as principals or school board members make choices such as budget cuts. However, such individuals and small committees are inherently unable to encompass problems and their associated factors in their entirety. Moreover, each department is incentivized to distort reporting in its favor, creating an overall inaccurate model for which decisions are made. English (2015) proposes participatory budgeting, in which all of the stakeholders collaborate closely when making decisions, as a superior alternative. When everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns and discuss the matter, solutions with the fewest negatives can emerge and be accepted. As such, the least necessary cost components of operating schools can be eliminated without significantly changing the quality of the education provided.
It is likely unavoidable that school budgets will be cut in the near future, even though primary and secondary education are non-discretionary areas of particular focus for every government. As such, schools need to prepare for the coming changes in advance to avoid having to make rash, ill-considered decisions that ultimately hurt the students. To do so, they can take advantage of the current online paradigm and minimize or eliminate some of the services provided, though this solution is not viable long-term. A superior option would be to secure participation from all stakeholders and make decisions that reflect the practical reality and optimize costs at little to no quality cost. With that said, the inherent slowness of such processes and the difficulty of organizing them means that action needs to begin sooner rather than later.
English, F. W. (Ed.). (2015). The SAGE guide to educational leadership and management. SAGE Publications.
Tabeling, A. (2020). State reps say K-12 education should prepare for budget restrictions or cuts. ABC17. Web.