Strengthening Leadership in Hard Times

By Douglas B. Reeves

Although economists claim that the Great Recession that started in 2008 is over, try telling that to school board members. Districts are coping with dramatic reductions in revenues while demands for services, particularly for special education and disadvantaged students, are rising.

In the short term, some states and local districts have used federal grants, such as Race to the Top (RTTT) funds, to maintain educational services and, in a few cases, actually increase them. But with the threat of across-the-board federal budget cuts looming, even promised RTTT funds now may be in jeopardy.

More ominously, declines in real estate values across the nation are already leading to reductions in property tax collections, the financial life-blood of most school districts. The financial crisis in education won’t be resolved by the economists’ announcements, but by the tough work of local leaders who must balance revenues and expenses. Class sizes are soaring and support staff has been cut to the bone.

Here are five responses boards can consider as they cope with new financial realities.

Subscribers please click here to continue reading. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to purchase this article or to obtain a subscription to ASBJ.