Don't prop up failing schools

Don’t use federal funding to prop up failing schools, write Harvard Business Professor Clayton M. Christensen and Michael Horn of Innosight Institute.

There is great danger in the sudden and massive amount of funding — nearly $100 billion — that the federal government is throwing at the nation’s schools. District by district, the budgetary crises into which all schools were plunging created the impetus for long-needed changes.

The most likely result of this stimulus will be to give our schools the luxury of affording not to change.

They urge four criteria for new funding, starting with no money for technology “that simply shoves computers and other technologies into existing classrooms,” no money for “new school buildings that look like the existing ones”  and no money for education schools that will maintain the status quo. They do advocate spending on “research and development to create student-centric learning software.”

There’s little impetus for change in Florida, where educators complain they can’t use all the stimulus dollars to pay for normal operating expenses, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

The Florida Department of Education will get several pots of money in its stimulus-fund package. The largest pot — $2.7 billion during two years — will, in fact, save lots of jobs and cover day-to-day expenses such as paychecks, pencils and electricity.

But the two other largest pots, about $1 billion combined during two years, are earmarked specifically for programs for poor kids and special education.

Richard Riley, a former Education secretary, wants to “do school differently,” but is very light on specifics.

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  1. Russ Whitehurst offers an alternative view of how money should be spent:

    His argument: Sometimes, the flashiest new products are not the best place to invest new money.