from TEO our CEO
This statement is a favorite maxim of our illustrious leader! According to Tom Olson it’s probably one of the most important economic realities a person can discover. There are many ways in which this principle is manifested and for today we’ll highlight two:
If your unexpended funds are clawed back at the end of a budget cycle you will spend it all before the funds disappear from your budget line, whether you are a district administrator, a department head, a principal, or a transportation manager. This behavior is typical at every budget level and almost never results in the most judicious and effective use of resources.
The team had money left at the end of the season so they bought 47 basketballs rather than see the money reallocated to track and field… the grade sixes had money left from their field trip so they bought T-shirts rather than leave it to the grade fives for next year’s trip…the curriculum department had money left at year end so they went to a Florida Convention which had only an oblique connection to their mandate…
New funding rules make things magically appear… or in some cases, disappear.
When students labeled as level 3 for their reading readiness were added to the funding model, the district principals discovered, collectively, twice as many level-3 students from one year’s testing to the next! When substitute teachers were paid from the district coffers, there were 3 times as many sub days as there were after schools became responsible to cover all short-term (5-day) substitute costs from the site budgets. In some schools substitutes (paid for by the district) were being used to cover professional development, report card writing and loosely monitored teacher sick days.
Behaviors change with a change in the rules. When high school administration offered the students’ union half the money saved on vandalism in a year, the funds needed for maintenance and repairs dropped immediately and significantly. Where academic test results have been the basis for funding, there have been cases of cheating…
The operation of this principle is not limited to governments and to school districts, but appears to be universal. When, as residents, we started paying by the number of garbage bags picked up at the curb, we found ways to recycle and limit the trash we created. There are bottles and cans littering states where there’s no deposit on them. When my son could accrue phone minutes by logging time spent reading, he finally discovered that books were interesting!
Administrators, school budget officials… and all the individuals who allocate resources should reflect upon these matters: how the carry-over of surplus and deficit budgets by schools and departments could work to change attitudes toward spending…and what potential changes in behavior will (or may) be driven by the formulas put in place …and even… how might the intended ends be distorted by new rules.