Let’s start by making something clear - this isn’t a call for more money to be pumped into education. It’s not a call for the head of district budgeting to be fired or a call for a district to give all of its teachers tens of thousands of dollars to spend as they see fit. Rather, it is a look at how schools and districts could benefit from shifting more spending power to the teachers. What advantage is there if the people who made decisions about which curriculum to implement were the same ones who would be using that curriculum? Most of all, it’s about trying to determine whether this shift in spending power would produce enough benefits to make it worth trying.
8 Benefits of Shifting More Spending Power to the Teachers
1. We would get rid of ineffective math and reading programs
It’s a sad truth that many teachers today are mandated to deliver instruction in core subjects with curriculum programs that aren’t effective. Some programs don’t engage the students at all, while others do a pitiful job of explaining important concepts. But teachers still use them. They use these programs because that’s what the district decided to buy at the end of 2010 and they don’t have the money to buy something else. They use them because they’re told that they need to be teaching Lesson 3.1 from 9:30 - 9:55 on Tuesday. The teachers are the ones who use the programs, and the students are the ones who suffer.
Imagine if we shifted some spending power to the teachers and allowed them to test out different programs before deciding which curriculum to use in the classroom. Teachers would finally have a say in how they go about instructing their students and could pick a program that matched well with their teaching style and student needs. They would no longer have to sludge through 5 years of poor instruction and resources, but could instead make changes when necessary.
2. Teachers would be able to use new programs and technology in class
Teachers are the ones who scour the internet and find the best new education programs. They show up at the conferences and connect one on one with the companies who build products for classroom use. They always have an ear and an eye out for anything that could improve the education of their students. Unfortunately, they are far too often stuck once they have found exactly what they were looking for. Without the money needed to buy these programs and technologies, teachers are left to either rely on donors for financial support or hope that their district or school will make the purchase for them. Shifting spending power to the teachers will allow them to find great programs and technology, bring them into the classroom immediately, and let students reap the benefits.
3. Teachers would start to feel valued and trusted
One of the most common complaints from teachers is that they feel undervalued. We place them in charge of educating and raising the next generation, but we often don’t give them a say in what they teach or how they teach it. Instead, we give them directions to follow, programs they must use and scripted lessons. By giving teachers more spending power, you would be showing them that they are not only valued, but trusted to make good decisions for them and their students.
4. Teachers could address and improve upon their weaknesses
Not every teacher is a rockstar in all subjects. Most teachers know which subjects are their strengths, and where they have difficulty. By shifting spending power to teachers, you are allowing them to improve upon their individual weaknesses by attending more targeted professional development sessions or purchasing support materials. How powerful would it be to have your own individual professional development budget that you could use to help improve your teaching methods? For once, PD would be tailored directly to your needs.
5. Schools would cut down on wasteful purchases
A good friend of mine recently told me about an empty classroom at his school that was completely full of old textbooks and technology. He estimated that there must have been somewhere between 500-1000 textbooks, 30 overhead projectors, 10 televisions and boxes upon boxes of school supplies. When I asked him what his school planned to do with it, he said that they had no need for any of it and it was stuff that had accumulated over time as extra materials.
Spending money efficiently will never result in an entire classroom full of extra materials. Getting teachers involved in the budgeting process by giving them more spending power would prevent wasteful purchases. Teachers know what they need, but more importantly, they know what they don’t need. Schools would no longer assume that all classrooms would want all of the programs, materials and new technology being purchased - freeing up that extra classroom for something a little more useful.
6. Major textbook and curriculum companies would start to focus more on teachers and on students
The primary goal of major textbook and curriculum companies is to keep business profitable. They’re more concerned about making sales to the people with decision-making power than creating the best resource possible. If the spending power and decision-making ability shifted to the teacher, that would change. Textbook companies would begin to reach out and develop relationships with teachers rather than districts. Instead of trying to plan out the best way to sign a million dollar contract, they would be in classrooms trying to determine how they could improve. This new line of communication would lead to better textbooks, more effective curriculum programs and more growth in all students.
7. Teachers wouldn’t have to keep spending their own money
While this one may seem obvious, it still needs to be mentioned. When I was teaching, somewhere near 10% of my pay was going right back into my classroom. I wanted to make sure that my students had what they needed to succeed and I was willing to use some of my own money to make sure that happened. Not all teachers have this ability. Many are supporting families and are already stretched thin financially. Distributing some of the spending power so that teachers can purchase what they need for their classrooms without dipping into their own pockets would help remove a burden that teachers don’t need to carry.
8. Schools and districts would retain their strongest teachers
There are always some teachers that a school can’t afford to lose. They help lead the professional development sessions, research new methods of instruction, motivate all students at the school to excel, and are total rockstars in the classroom. They have parents in the office begging for their students to be placed into Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so’s class. Right now, they’re most likely fed up. They want to keep teaching because they see the potential of every student and they know they can make a difference, but they’re so darn tired of not having any real decision-making power.
Giving teachers more spending power makes them feel important. It makes them believe that they do have a say in the direction the school is heading. What rockstar teachers really want is to be free to make the necessary decisions that will benefit students. They don’t want to be held back by mandatory minutes spent teaching each subject, district-mandated curriculum or a lack of spending power. Giving them the ability to make impactful decisions will keep them in your schools, right where they belong.
What do you think? Should teachers be given more spending power? Let me know in the comments!