“Inherent Tensions,” Relegating Parents and Teachers to Servility Destroys the School Budgeting Process.


 In a few days principals will see their 08-09 budget pop-up on their Galaxy screen. One of the few achievements of the current administration is the introduction of technology into school management. Principals will begin to grapple with the bundle of dollars in this era of school-based budgeting, which, is not an invention of the current guys.
Edmonton, Alberta is the “home” of school based budgeting. More than thirty years ago Edmonton began to devolve dollars to schools, and school communities decided how to spend their budget. Edmonton began to run conferences explaining their philosophy, and, invited visitors to visit their schools and speak with their principals and teachers. 
In the mid-nineties I had the opportunity to visit Edmonton and participate in a school-based budgeting conference.
Chancellor Rudy Crew, and his deputy Harry Spence supported a pilot in a number of school districts: driving budget decisions to schools. A program evaluation supported the notion that driving dollars to schools, and, training parents, teachers and principals to build budgets, improved student achievement.
The effective efforts were in districts that conducted in depth training. In District 22 “Training sessions are open to all who wish to enroll, and are held at various times to ensure that members of the planning teams are trained to fully participate in planning and budgeting.”
“School-based management has become a place where people talk very honestly about how to improve the schools,” said school board member Anne McKinnon.
The District 22 Superintendent said ” …the inherent tension between knowledgeable, trained SLT members and the principal is ‘necessary if we’re going to change the culture of an organization’ “
“Inherent tension” is an excellent phrase; parents, teachers and principals discussing and debating policy and budget.
Unfortunately the Klein administration has taken a huge step backwards. Empowering principals and relegating parents and teachers to servile roles is the antithesis of teamwork.
The current Galaxy system is user friendly, it guides the user, has many prompts, prevents money from being misallocated, and, is quite flexible.
The core questions: Do principals have the experience and knowledge to create educational programs that are appropriate to their student populations? Will excluding parents and teachers help or hinder student progress?
Each year schools are faced with a range of basic issues:
* should you reduce class size in the first grade or hire another assistant principal?
* should you create another pre-K class, hire another Literacy Coach, or buy an AUSSIE trainer?
* do you need another Dean, or, another Guidance Counselor?
* what textbooks should you buy?
* should you create an after-school tutorial program? a Saturday tutoring program? purchase vendor services?
How do principals go about making these decisions? Who participates in the process? How do we know if these policy/budgeting decisions “worked”?
The disaster that Tweed created is to place all power in the hands of the principal, many of whom have limited experience as teachers and/or school administrators.
State law requires that principals create 110.11 committees, what we call School Leadership Teams (SLT). Tweed, however, has trivialized SLTs, all decisions in schools are principal driven. Some principals, too few, include their parents and teachers in the process.
School Support Organizations are distant from schools, and, have their own agendas.
The budgeting process should begin within schools, the SLTs must be the core of the process. Superintendents and their staffs, now invisible, must monitor and guide the process in collaboration with the District Leadership Teams (DLT).
With the spector of budget cuts hovering over schools, principals will have to grapple with insufficient budgets. SLTs empower parents and teachers while not diminishing the role of principals.
The current administration is wedded to a failed policy, hopefully the new Governance Law will return the school system to a collaborative path.

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