Because of course they had to.
Let’s set the stage, shall we. NPR is looking at how school funding varies by district. Now, while most astute readers of this blog will know that school funding comes primarily from property taxes, followed by state and federal dollars (more or less in that order) apparently this was a shocker to the NPR reporter discussing the story this morning.
But I digress. Now then, to our main point. We have a school district here, the Jennings School District, that has more than a few money problems. How did the superintendent handle that?
“Every principal has to meet with me every month, and they have to justify how they spent every dollar,” [Superintendent] Anderson says.
She walks the walk, too. The crosswalk.
Every morning, she plays the role of crossing guard, walking kids across the street in front of one of the district’s nine schools.
By one account (that I’m having trouble finding) I heard it saved nearly $10k/year. Good for you Ms. Anderson. By leaving your ivory office you not only forged a relationship with students, you directed money back where it belongs, in the classroom.
Now the NPR article wants to spin this as some travesty, the spinning is even more apparent if you listen to the 6 minute audio segment at the top of the page (oh look more narrative abuse!) Obviously though, it’s far from a tragedy, it’s smart thinking by Ms. Anderson. I can estimate based on more recent news that Ms. Anderson made around 200k. Saving $10k by being a crossing guard is part of that high salary. Indeed, per that last linked article, Ms. Anderson managed to balance Jennings’s budget, raise the graduation rate to above the state average, while restoring art programs and adding college prep programs. The article also notes she’s also gone now; replaced by someone who has a bit of a cloud of suspicion over him. (I guess NPR decided updating their story to note that she was poached by another district was not worth the effort, but we’ll ignore that for now).
NPR also implies she’s manipulating families for free labor:
Anderson isn’t just about cutting costs, either; she’s creative about finding new money. She put donated washers and dryers in some of her schools. Parents can use them in exchange for volunteering an hour in the classroom. [Emphasis added]
Really NPR? Really? I’m going to offer you some insight here. Those washers and dryers probably cost more to run and maintain than you get in free labor. But that’s not really the point. Since you’re ignorant of how schools are funded, I can only assume you’re ignorant of the studies that show that parental involvement leads to better schooling outcomes. What does that mean in this context? I’ve lead you to the water NPR, now take a drink and figure it out yourself.
Now, I may not agree with every path Ms. Anderson has taken, but for finding creative ways to slice spending and maximizing her efficiency, I give her two thumbs up. If more school administrators got their hands dusty (this isn’t even dirty, just a bit dusty) how much could we redirect towards classrooms?
Of course to NPR this is just something to be solved by more money. But, note in the map in their article how blue New York is, awash in money. And as we all know NYC schools are the best in the nation (or something.)
Please note: this author is in favor of school choice. I believe that if schools actually competed for money they’d fine even more ways to be efficient.