The national average of money put towards instruction per student is 60%, according to the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau. While some states lag behind the average, all but one state reported a budget increase for instruction spending in 2015. But we’ve just received good news for that one state, Arizona – and from them, a lesson in large strides vs. penny-pinching.
Arizona instruction spending is officially on the rise as of 2017 with their first increase in more than a decade. The state’s annual report of education spending shows that last year AZ schools invested 53.8 cents of every dollar in instruction. A great turn of events, but Arizona and other states home to the nation’s largest districts still need to do more, and there’s an alternative to the current mode of thinking that could help.
Arizona made a big move in order to turn their instruction budget around. Proposition 123 allowed the schools to sell large plots of land reserves which added more than $200 million to the instruction budget. Big move opportunities like Proposition 123 make an immediate impact, but seizing these opportunities requires patience. The district must not only wait for the right moment (or voter’s approval in this case) to pounce on the opportunity, they must also wait for the opportunity to come around in the first place. Most likely, every district that could use more money in the classroom isn’t sitting on their own valuable land reserves. While penny-pinching make take longer to add up, it works and it’s possible for nearly every school district regardless of circumstance.
Let us ponder the alternative to “big thinking”. Consider the sum of several small solutions that you can implement immediately. We’re talking postage stamp small. For the largest districts, cutting a year’s cost of 3 postage stamps per student a year could result in hundreds of thousands of savings. For a school district of 50,000 students, the savings amount to $73,500 with the current cost of a stamp at $0.49. Sparing these stamps equates to $1.47 per student. Now add the savings of the paper, printer ink, and envelopes. For more paperless savings calculations, check out this blog.
Paperless methodology is a testament to the phrase “greater than the whole of its parts”, which is why we’ve compared it to the impact made by Proposition 123 for AZ schools. Paperless methodology requires the implementation of several postage stamp-small solutions at one time, amounting to a large chunk of change. Regardless of the budget saved, some schools tout increased efficiency as the most impactful benefit of ditching paper.
Perhaps the biggest saving is really the time saved for staff tasked with processing forms. The amount of time spent on manual data entry, scanning, copying, filing, re-filing, and relocating or recreating lost documents is astounding and redundant. Lest not forget that time is money. Going paperless increases your district’s efficiency tenfold by freeing employees from tedious, albeit necessary tasks such as scanning a field trip permission slip for every 2nd grader, and then tracking them all down one by one a week later. Usually, a school district can implement paperless savings plans without waiting on a board decision – or voter approval, for that matter!
Arizona schools had a win this year with their first instruction budget increase in over a decade. While as a nation we applaud that, AZ schools are still $3,000 per student below the national average pupil expenditure. Finding that kind of money without taking away from another aspect of student life is insanely difficult. So why not start by draining the budget for office materials?
We leave you with a brief public service announcement: if your school district has over 5,000 students, you have around $20,000 a year you could stand to save on paper and associated materials and labor. If you are one of the few school districts over 50,000 students, you could save hundreds of thousands by going paperless.