Monday, May 28, 2007

A little business sense could redirect money to education

Great Editorial by Nolan Finley in Sunday's paper:

Detroit News: Business is essential to fixing schools (05/27/07)

He discusses a new survey by the Detroit Regional Chamber, which apparently shows that businesses are overwhelming unhappy with the output of schools today, and are reluctant to provide more funding until schools get their financial act together.

It's a shame businesses can't vote. If they could, perhaps they could help drive the election of school boards that would fix these rather obvious problems!

If schools were open to advice from business, I'm sure they could get lots of pointers on how improve business operations. But, they're generally not open to suggestions from business people and as a result maintain very poor business practices.

I see this as a huge problem.

My original motivation to get involved in education was driven by a desire to make public school more challenging and rigorous. But every attempt to suggest an improvement was met with "We don't have the money!"

So, I started trying to look at the business practices, hoping to find some savings that could then be utilized to improve education.

There are plenty of places to find savings.

For example,
Rochester Community Schools spends $1500 on basic desktop computers. Go try to configure a desktop PC on Dell's website, and see if you can even spend that much!

The district sends out plenty of mail. Report cards, bus schedules, and state required notices are all mailed, and usually paid for with first-class postage. Why not send this stuff via email, or post grades and bus schedules on a secure website, like most business do? Instead, the Board of Education just approved the purchase of a $45,000 postage meter!

In this year alone the board has approved nearly $200,000 in consulting contracts, each essentially designed to baby-sit or oversee other consultants or contractors.

The $65 million dollar bond issue from 2004 continues to be managed by a general contractor that has received the work on a no-bid basis. They are joined by financial advisors, healthcare consultants, lawyers, and technology consultants that continue to enjoy contracts awarded by the board on a no-bid basis.

The board has refused several requests I've made to look at whether there would be any savings in merging with neighboring districts.

And I can only assume that the union contracts are approved based on emotions, because they certainly don't make business sense. The most recent contracts are projected to increase at nearly $370 per pupil. That's a 6.4% annual increase. It is double what the best case scenario is out of Lansing for next year's funding increases.

These are just a few high-level observations. Imagine what might be found if the districts were to seek mentoring partnerships with local CEO's to come in and help mentor central office leaders and building principals.

==> Mike.


Anonymous said...

Is the support contract for the Dell in your hypothetical the same, worse, or you didn't bother to find out?

Does everyone in the district have internet? Or do you just assume thay will find out by the wireless that they don't have?

Consolidation id great but get all the other districts to buy in and their voters as well.

Oh yes, you want Lansing and BiG govenrment do force it.

More hot air and no action.

Mike Reno said...

The Dell example is not hypothetical; it's real. And yes, the systems have the same warranty you can buy online.

Not sure what your point is about the wireless and internet.

I agree consolidation is great, or at least merits discussion.

And, I know what you mean about the "no action" part. I will admit it's frustrating to bring this stuff up and have it fall on deaf ears. But, my suggestions have moved the debate and with your encouragement I will continue to bring new ideas forward.

Anonymous said...

The wireless is a little jab at our County Executive and his grand announcement that Oakland County will go wireless. Many parts of the RCS district have poor cable quality for data and no DSL.

My question should have been. How many RCS parents on a percent basis have internet at home?

The paper mailing system is a burden any way it is done and major companies made the announcement 20 years ago thet they would go "paperless". They haven't.