Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Change Isn't Easy

In a perfect world, we would assess the situation and come up with a plan to get us where we want to go. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and change doesn’t come easy… especially in education.

Case in point: In 1942, the document, “Planning Schools for Tomorrow: The Issues Involved”, written by J.G. Fowlkes in cooperation with the Committee on Planning for Education of the U.S. Office of Education, addressed the needs and the qualities of a good school, the importance of planning, and the future of our educational system. In 1942, we were concerned that an end to the war would bring about an economic crash. In 2014, we are concerned about recovering from the economic crisis of 2007-2008 and the lingering effects on school budgets.

During the year that ended June 30, 1940, the United States spent approximately $2.7 billion for public elementary, secondary and higher education, but the document stated that, “to offer the education program needed in this country would require a minimum expenditure of approximately 5 billion dollars a year for regular current expenses. An additional 5 billion dollars, at least, is needed for the repair of old, and the construction of new, school buildings.” Current estimates put total expenditures at $604-plus billion, and facilities need at approximately $197 billion.

In 2014, we want to redesign schools to “personalize learning to support the needs and interests of individual students, optimize the pace of learning and customize content and practices for students to master academic content and pursue their interests.” In 1942, we talked about providing “a full program of education adapted to the capacities and interests of all the individuals whom the schools should serve.”

The discussions about physical facilities are the same ones we are having today — the school plant needs were not always determined on the basis of all the criteria needed. Their criteria included accessibility; adequacy with respect to needed services; adequacy with respect to size; arrangement; utilization; possibility of rearrangement; and the possibility of expansion. Sound familiar?

Although the buzz words may have changed in the last 75 years, our basic goals and needs have not. Are we are doing something wrong? Maybe we are doing something right by not giving up on our goals and concept of what is important.

I wish for you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

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