THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION

Most of us have grown up being told that change, although difficult at times, is good — growth, learning and life itself are forms of change. As our society continues to change, the learning process for people of all ages continues to evolve. The way that we plan, build and maintain our schools must reflect those changes in order for the schools to remain relevant. The following people have made it their business to know what is going on with educational facilities and have agreed to share their answers to the question: What do you see happening in the future — what changes do you see coming? When do you see these changes occurring?

Melody Douglas, chief financial officer of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in Soldotna, Alaska, and a member of the Association of School Business Officers (ASBO) has these thoughts from the business side of school management.

Instruction: The on-going movement toward distance education and alternative schooling systems, and the increasing use of wireless laptop computers will lead to diminishing reliance on traditional schools. Electronic instructional information will cause a decline in textbook purchases and provide for more opportunities for students. Advanced placement classes won’t be dependent on a teacher in front of students in a classroom — instruction will be able to be delivered from anywhere, which will be particularly meaningful for rural schools.

Business Functions: I believe there will be serious movement in the near future toward outsourcing business functions (payroll, accounts payable, HR functions) and/or processing from home by employees. There are two issues here: the potential of perceived cost containment with outsourcing and flexibility for employees. The increasing lack of funding encountered by school districts creates challenges in the negotiations process. If there aren’t funds to offer raises, increased health care and other benefits, then management will need to find something to offer employees — flexibility over their schedules and where they work are options.

Data: An infrastructure will need to be in place to handle the tracking, security and availability of data in the changing environments noted above. Reliable student, employee, financial data will still be needed to support the decision-making processes involved in operating a school district, regardless of what it looks like.

Douglas can be reached at .

Thomas A. Kube, the executive director/CEO of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), looks to the future from the perspective of someone in the field of planning and design.

There seems to be a resurgence of successful bond referendums in the K-12 level, which dropped a bit in the past two years, primarily because of the economy. For the foreseeable future, we will continue to see the school sector of the construction industry remain robust. After all, we still have a large number of school-aged kids that need healthy, high-performing school buildings. School districts are embracing the concepts of sustainable design and green building concepts. North American schools will see a great deal more of lifecycle costing, sustainability and environmentally sensitive components integrated into their planning, design and construction practices. As a society, we finally have come to realize that we cannot continue to use nonrenewable resources in buildings and other parts of our lives without thinking of the long-term effect. Schools in the future will have more flexibility, which will have an incredibly positive result on our ability to deliver sound, pertinent curriculum which will give our children a larger set of educational opportunities than we, their forbearers, had. The future looks great!

Kube can be reached at .

Larry Schoff, national K-12 schools technical analyst for the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Rebuild America/EnergySmart Schools programs, sees a slow but steady future in high-performance schools in the 21st Century.

Faced with increasing energy costs, a complex learning and teaching environment, and increased public expectations from schools in our country, more and more school boards and decision-makers are asking for information on High-Performance Design (HPD) elements and how they can improve the learning and teaching environment. They are beginning to grasp the impact of these elements and requiring they be included in future designs of both new and renovated school facilities. Due to the lack of knowledge by the design professionals, school boards, decision-makers and the general public, the adoption of HPD is slow but gaining momentum. One indication of this change is the increasing numbers of design and school personnel and the general public, in attendance at U.S. Department of Energy’s Rebuild America School Design Tech Seminars during the past 18 months, and other seminars and presentations that have been given at national and state conferences of school professional organizations, like ASBO (Association of School Business Officials), NSBA (National School Board Association) and CEFPI (Council for Educational Facility Planners International). Based on response to the HPD technical seminars and presentations, the need for education (raising the awareness) of all segments of the school community (general public, school administrators, faculty, support staff, boards/funding authorities) is key to the success of high-performance schools in the 21st Century. Only when the demand for high-performance schools comes directly from the community, will HPD become the norm of school design. But the key to sustaining this norm well into the 21st Century is to ensure energy education is incorporated into all subjects being taught. Remember, the students are the ones that will sustain HPD.

Change is slow, but based on actions to date, at least one generation will be needed before high-performance design and its benefits are common in the school community.

Schoff can be reached at .

Michael Dorn, SP&M columnist, school safety author and senior consultant for Public Safety and Emergency Management with Jane’s, says that we should expect a continued increase in the reliance upon technology solutions during the next decade and, consequently, a reduction in the need for some funding for security needs.

With the new information products and services being released this year, we see a dramatic reduction in the annual waste of hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable school safety consulting services and products. There is a steadily increasing awareness among educators that many school safety consultants and products are significantly overpriced and often of poor quality.

Educators are learning that schools can use information products and training to internalize their capacity to handle school safety projects without being taken to the cleaners by consultants. For example, for just $10,000, school districts as large as New York City and Los Angeles can now purchase school safety planning systems to easily and quickly develop their own high-quality school safety plans. This is a sharp contrast to the outrageous fees of many consultants who often sell or write poor-quality plans for as much as $25,000 per school.

We also see more school systems learning to do their own tactical site surveys and safety audits. School districts have been squandering millions in precious safety funds when they can have their own staff coordinate surveys that are typically of better quality than those done by consultants. Some consultants charge as much as $5,000 per building for these services. Most government school safety center experts consider this an outrageous waste of taxpayer’s money. This has been a cash cow for unregulated school safety consultants for years. This change during the next few years will allow limited school safety funds to be used to address unmet needs.

Dorn can be reached at .

Fritz Edelstein, senior advisor at the U. S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., believes that one of the major issues confronting education nationally in the next few years is funding — not only at the federal level but at the, state and local levels as well.

Key to this funding issue will be the budget that President Bush proposes for FY 2006, that will be released just after the Inauguration in early February. The Omnibus Appropriations legislation passed by Congress for FY 2005 just at the end of the last session included less funding for education than what President Bush had requested for FY 2005. This nation is in a difficult deficit situation. The big question that is yet to be answered is, what can be cut and what can be increased in the FY 2006 education budget given the deficit?

A commitment was made during the reauthorization of IDEA to increase funding for special education so it begins to reach“full funding.” Also, there seems to be a commitment to increase Title I funding to assist in the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). And the President will most likely have a series of five or six new education initiatives that may add up to another billion dollars. Where will this new money come from and at whose expense?

The three key education legislation issues for 2005 are the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the Vocational and Technical Education Act (Perkins), and whether or not there will be any mid-course corrections with the No Child Left Behind Act as suggested by many people, including Checker Finn and Rick Hess.

We also must look at the states and their fiscal situations. What will we be able to do to fund education at the state levels? How will localities be able to pass bond issues? It is a very tight time for education. We have seen rising education budgets for the past 10 to 12 years, but it is not clear an increased investment can continue. What will be sacrificed at all levels while still requiring high standards, accountability and continual progress in improving academic achievement?

Funding formulas used by states to finance education are being challenged in the courts. Currently, 31 states are considering changing their formulas; 16 states are in legal battles; 20 state law suits have been settled in the last five years (but most have not be enacted by the state legislature) and 37 states and D.C. lack the resources or have unpredictable funding levels. The courts have been finding in favor of the citizens and telling states to develop new formulas. This is not going away.

Mayors recognize the importance of education to cities. They are looking for various ways and mechanisms to fund the modernization and updating of education facilities in cities so they become centers of community.

Currently, the percentage contributions for precollegiate education funding is federal at 7.9 percent; states at 49.3 percent and locals at 42.9 percent. Other important issues that will be on the radar screen in the next two years include implementation of IDEA; creating smaller learning communities especially in high schools; improving preparation for and access to postsecondary education; funding strategies for student financial aid; expansion of early childhood education; and funding for the education infrastructure.

The nation’s mayors will be more engaged at the local level in many of these issues. Their focus will be on building working relationships between school systems and cities to better provide education and related services to children so they can be successful.

Edelstein can be reached at .

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