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When School Budgets Dry Up: Innovation Can Help Educators Ride out the Storm


In the wake of what the National Science Teacher Association calls “unacceptable” standardized test results, U.S. educators everywhere are nervously grappling with the reality of deeper spending cuts that threaten to challenge our kids further. As professional educators, we have an obligation to find additional resources that will give students the tools they need to compete in tomorrow’s complex world. Weathering our economic challenges and bringing about real reform in our schools is going to take a unique partnership between the public and private sectors and the professionals within the system.

Here’s an example of that kind of partnership already working for education reform: In 2008, our organizations – the Washington Education Association and the Association of Washington School Principals – partnered with the Washington Association of School Administrators and Educational Service District 113 to create PLCWashington (www.plcwashington.org), a program that helps put in place meaningful ways to engage school staff in a collaborative process to improve instruction and boost student learning.

As always, the challenge has been how to help educators visualize what phenomenal instruction looks like. To address that challenge, PLCWashington has joined forces with Success at the Core (www.successatthecore.com), a joint project of Vulcan Productions and the Education Development Center made possible by the generous support of philanthropist Paul G. Allen.

Success at the Core is a free online tool designed to help teachers and teams improve classroom instruction. It includes 47 mini-documentaries filmed in six Washington schools that show leadership teams in action and best teaching practices in the classroom. It doesn’t require an outside facilitator and can be integrated into the planning time most schools already allot for their teachers.

The best part? More than 200 of Washington state’s 298 school are already using the tool.

Larger reforms to our public education system are underway, but meaningful progress will take time. That leaves us strategizing ways to use our limited dollars smartly. Resources like PLCWashington and Success at the Core are available right now.

Teachers and principals are seeing progress daily. And they are doing it at no additional cost; something worth celebrating as we’re all asked to tighten our belts.

Professional learning is a high priority for AWSP and WEA. It is the fastest, most economical way to increase student achievement. If the adults in the system do not continue to advance, then neither will the students. We pledge to seek out and support efforts – both public and private – that will make this happen.

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