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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spending vs. Investing

My wife and I have raised two kids. In sum, it's not something you do, it's something you experience. It's an ongoing journey with twists and turns both unexpected and extraordinary. Anyone who has raised kids has enough of a reservoir of stories that they can write a book, not an instructional manual, but a book. Among the rituals all parents encounter at one time or another is the money talk. This discussion centers on concepts like worth, value, exchange, benefit and other notions. Parents also speak of patience, fiscal prudence, and the act of conservation of resources. At least that's what we think we express. Actually, it boils down to trying to get the kids to appreciate the value of effort that goes into earning the money and gaining a fair return in exchange for whatever and however you use the money. It's really about the difference between spending and investing.

I looked up the word spend in a thesaurus and found the following associated words: fritter, squander, consume, exhaust and splurge. In contrast, when I searched the same reference for the word invest, I discovered these related words: endow, provide, supply, devote, advance, and empower. There's a marked difference in the meanings of those two words. Although many people rarely pause to examine how far apart they typically are in action.

Recent headlines and newscasts have touted the flow of money from two separate streams of funding from Washington D.C. First, the ten billion dollar economic stimulus plan referred to as the Education Jobs Fund. The intent of this act is to allow school systems throughout the country to rehire staff members released last spring as a result of budget cuts. New York State will reportedly receive over 600 million dollars to be distributed to the state's 720 school districts. There are two goals embedded within the stimulus: boost employment figures, and, meet the needs of learners. The use of the money is qualified by the following parameters as reported by the executive director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

"Reportedly the guidance will also give examples of allowable uses of funds and these will include compensation and benefits for restored or new positions for teachers and other school-level staff, as well as restoration of furlough and professional development days, extended school days and summer school, and salary increases."

Second, the Federal Department of Education announced today that New York State is one of the winners of round two of the much touted, Race To The Top program. The RTTT, as it's referred to, is a series of competitive grants awarded to states as an incentive to simulate educational reform and improvement in achievement. New York is scheduled to be the beneficiary of nearly 700 million dollars through this program to be dispersed to schools statewide with the expressed purpose of carrying out "bold reforms" in education. It's important to note the following guidelines as reported by the executive director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents:

"Some reporters remain misinformed about the possible uses of the money, believing that states may use it to help districts avert the need for layoffs or property tax increases. WRONG. It can only be used to support systemic reform initiatives. Federal law and regulation require winning states to allocate at least half the grant to local education agencies (LEAS -- school districts and charter schools); our application would also make a significant part of the state’s share available to LEAs as grants for activities such as professional development and innovations in teacher compensation, but again, the money cannot be used for basic, ongoing operating expenses."

At this point there's a lot of publicity but little details regarding how much each school district will receive and when they can expect the delivery of money. In short, there's a great deal of hype, but not so much type. Heatly awaits information on both fronts, amount of money and time of distribution.

Now, back to spending vs. investing. Spending is easy. There are an incredible number of companies advertising a multitude of programs, software, hardware, books, and supplies with promises designed to boost performance levels. There's no shortage of opportunities to buy things. In some cases, it can be like a kid in the candy store when studying all of the choices. No matter how much money we receive it could conceivably be consumed in quick order, all with the worthwhile goal of promoting success for our learners. These funds will not be expected as inexhaustible annual grants. We should never be dependent on the federal money. And we should not ignore our orientation and accountability to the Green Island community. We must therefore use the money wisely and invest it in critical areas to leverage success for long term benefits rather than spend it just because we have it. In fact, school districts will be able to carry over some of the Education Jobs money to the 2011/12 school year to ward against further staff cuts. You can be assured that your community representatives, your elected school board members, and I, will exercise responsibility and caution in determining how these funds can be become stimulants of constructive change and productive enterprise.

We will share details and decisions regarding these funds and their intended use through the district's website as soon as the information becomes available.

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