Just released, and now populating a variety of podcast distributors: our first podcast episode.
Or, just listen to it here.
Our second episode for any time / anywhere viewing is now available both here and on YouTube. The audio podcasts will follow very soon--we are completing production on both of them this week. Over the next few weeks, we will settle into a regular schedule: new episodes live 4:00 pm Thursdays US-EDT, on-demand versions of each new episode early the following week, along with the podcasts. For more specific information about days, dates, episodes, and important ideas we discover along the way, www.reinventing.school remains the best place for current information.
The topic for the second episode is: "Paying for School: Today & Tomorrow." I thought we would be discussing school and school district budgets. The conversation grew into a much larger conception of how societies succeed and fail. The core: their investment in education. This is the reason for the ascendency of, for example, South Korea and Finland. Sadly, the United States seems to be moving in the opposite direction (please consider this difficult reality when your state, province, or local district decides to cut budgets and lay off teachers and support staff).
Once again, our guests for this episode:
Be safe, stay healthy, maintain distance, and make the best of the new realities.
We're pleased to present our first complete episode for any time / anywhere viewing. We record new episodes at 4:00 pm Thursdays US-EDT. A short time later, we post the hour-long video on YouTube, and also on this web page. We're adding an audio podcast to the mix; when that begins, we'll announce it on this web page. The first episode features:
Ezekiel J. Emanuel,the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor, and Co-Director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania;
Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO;
Sonja Brookins Santelises, the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools;
and West Virginia middle school student Lyric Lee Taylor.
Together with host Howard Blumenthal, they discuss the next 12 months of school, both in the U.S and worldwide. Guest biographies appear in the article below.
(Tomorrow, we produce Episode 2: Paying for School Today and Tomorrow. I wrote this article to prepare for that episode.)
More than most countries, the United States relies upon school buses for student transportation. There’s a fleet of nearly a half-million buses assigned to the job. Other countries rely, to varying degrees, upon a combination of school and public transportation for students, but many of the ideas in this article apply worldwide.
In the U.S., there are about 480,000 active school buses. Estimates vary, but they seem to carry between 1/3 and 1/2 of public school students and many private school students as well. Many of these buses travel multiple routes per day. This is a story about economics and the surprising impact of transportation on school budgets in the Corona and post-Corona era.
Basically, there are four types of school buses. Type A and Type B are smaller buses, Type D is very large (similar to a public transit bus), and Type C (“conventional”) is the model you most often see on the road. A Type C bus can seat as many as 75-80 students, but sitting three-across on a bench seat is neither fun nor suitable for the current era. It’s more comfortable to sit two-per-bench; assume 13 benches on each side of the bus, or 52 students sitting two-by-two.
Now, change your thinking. Two-by-two no longer works. Not at all. A bus that carried 52 students in 2019 could carry 26 students in 2020, but that would place students in every bus seat. I suspect they will require more space between them; alternating rows may be safer. That would reduce the carriage to 13 students per trip.
If students do not attend school every day, but instead adhere to a Monday-Wednesday (group A) and Tuesday-Thursday (group B) schedule, there will be continued chaos for parents and continued struggles with conducting school at home, but this approach would cut the need for bus transportation in half. If 26 students are traveling by bus, that could work, but if 13 students are traveling on those buses, we’ll need twice as many vehicles, and twice as many drivers (there is a continuing problem with driver shortages, so this will not be easy from a budget and recruitment perspective).
Typically, it takes about 30 minutes to clean a school bus. The treatment requires two passes, first to clean, then to disinfect. I’m guessing this occurred once or twice a day, but now, it must be done every time the bus is used. If a single bus does three runs, in each direction, that’s six cleanings per day—and the cleanings must be more intensive than before, probably requiring an inspection before the next run can begin. If those cleanings require, say, 60 minutes to do the job properly, that’s a full-time job for one person to clean one bus per day. If the cleanings can be done, safely, in 30 minutes per day, that’s still 240,000 new jobs for people who clean buses. It also messes with school schedules (which will probably be revamped anyway), and with 8-hour driver shifts (which will result in greater expense). If we pay each cleaning person $20 per hour (because the work is hazardous and because the lives of our children are at stake), and they work for 30 hours per week (4 days x 6 hours, plus organizational chores), that’s $600 per week, plus (I hope) 25% taxes and benefits, for a total of $750 per week for, say, 40 weeks in the school year, multiplied by 240,000 people. The annual expense would be $7.2 billion in the U.S.
If we really do need twice as many school buses, and a good used bus costs about $40K, that’s 450,000 buses x $40K, or $18,000,000,000 ($18 billion, a capital investment in 10-15 years of service). We also need twice as many drivers, at perhaps $50K per year per driver including taxes and benefits, or $22,500,000,000 ($22.5 billion annually). And we haven’t yet budgeted for fuel and maintenance.
In many countries, students travel to school on public buses and trains. Daily schedules are enhanced during to-from school hours. These vehicles would require a similar regimen, made more complicated by the lack of control—it’s not only students who travel these routes, but it’s also adults who may be less likely to submit to rigid rules.
Are people in the U.S. prepared to spend $50 billion within the next 12 months for safety in school busing? Even though the benefit is provided to half (or perhaps a third) of school children? Even if my numbers are wildly incorrect—and I hope you will offer corrections in the comments box below—they may be indicative of a broader scope of thinking about school economics.
Why focus on school buses? In the U.S., school transportation seems to account for about 5% of budgets, and it’s likely to increase. I suspect there is a similar line of thinking to be applied to teachers and to support personnel. For teachers, a Monday-Wednesday / Tuesday-Thursday split schedule might result in no additional effort (seems unlikely, but let’s go with that assumption), but the students working at home on those alternate days will require support. Ideally, there would be teachers in the classroom and teachers available to assist with home instruction, or, at least support staff. If we take the time to run the numbers—an exercise many districts and government agencies are beginning to pursue—it seems likely that Randi Weingarten’s initial estimate of a 20-25% increase would be correct.
For districts and government agencies who believe that this is the time for cutting school budgets, there is rethinking to be done. And reinvention.
I'm pleased to announce a new LearningRevolution.com weekly interview series, "REINVENTING.SCHOOL," being held live on Thursdays at 4:00 pm US-EDT and hosted by Howard Blumenthal. Howard's guests this week are Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former Obama White House Health Policy Adviser, and Vice Provost of Global Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania.
Howard Blumenthal created and produced the PBS television series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? He is currently a Senior Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania, studying learning and the lives of 21st-century children and teenagers. He travels the world, visiting K-12 schools, lecturing at universities, and interviewing young people for Kids on Earth, a global platform containing nearly 1,000 interview segments from Kentucky, Brazil, Sweden, India, and many other countries. Previously, he was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist for The New York Times Syndicate, and United Features. He is the author of 24 books and several hundred articles about technology, learning, business, and human progress. As an executive, Howard was the CEO of a public television operation and several television production companies, and a state government official. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President for divisions of two large media companies, Hearst and Bertelsmann, and a consultant or project lead for Energizer, General Electric, American Express, CompuServe, Warner Communications, Merriam-Webster, Atari and other companies.
THIS WEEK'S GUESTS:
Sonja Brookins Santelises is the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. Previously, she served as the vice president for K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust, providing strategic direction for the organization’s K-12 research, practice, and policy work. Before joining The Education Trust, Sonja was the chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools. Sonja came to Baltimore City Schools from Boston, where she served as assistant superintendent for pilot schools and assistant superintendent for teaching and learning/professional development.
Sonja began her career in education as director of professional development and teacher placement with Teach for America, New York, followed by stints at a year-round school in Brooklyn where she was a founder, teacher, and curriculum specialist. She holds a bachelor of arts from Brown University, a master of arts in education administration from Columbia University, and a doctor of education in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard.
By my count, roughly one in three of earth’s 7.8 billion people are children or teenagers, and roughly half of them are enrolled in school. Enrollment, attendance, and completion rates continue to increase, but an almost unimaginable change has occurred. Now, more than a billion young people, and a hundred million teachers and other professionals, must think differently about learning, school, and education.
This is a problem for every individual student and family, for communities and schools and school districts, for colleges and universities, and for the public good. Reinvention must occur in real-time, in the midst of an international economic mess, with deep unknowns about public health, safety, and our pandemic future.
We cannot stop in order to develop, test, and perfect a plan. We must continue to provide an education to well over a billion people, and we cannot rely upon parents, grandparents, and siblings to carry much of the load. There is no single solution because every student is unique, and available resources vary widely. And yet, we must make it work. Every stakeholder must develop his, her, or their own solution.
Reinventing.School provides a structure, a means to think clearly and see the big picture. It is a place where experts gather to address real-world plans, timelines, and possible solutions to extraordinarily challenging problems. It is a new weekly web television series, live on Zoom Thursdays at 4 PM (eastern time), available on-demand a day later on Vimeo and YouTube.
We’ve started this blog to provide information about every Reinventing.School episode, every guest, related links to books and articles and other videos, and occasional written commentary. This is our web headquarters for Reinventing.School, and we hope you will find it useful.
It’s exciting to begin this new adventure. Thank you for joining us on the journey. Please tell your family, friends, and colleagues that a new game has begun and that our intended outcome is a big win for every student on earth.
Please, subscribe to get an access.
Before the virus, more than a billion children and teenagers relied upon school for learning. After the virus (or, after the current wave of our current virus), basic assumptions about school and education are no longer reliable. School buildings may become unsafe for large numbers of students. The tax base may no longer support our current approach to school. Without the interaction provided by a formal school structure, students may follow their own curiosity. Many students now possess the technology to learn on their own. And many do not.
Reinventing.school is a new weekly web television series that considers what happens next week, next month, next school year, and the next five years. Hosted by University of Pennsylvania Senior Scholar Howard Blumenthal, Reinventing.school features interviews with teachers, principals, school district leadership, state and Federal government officials, ed-tech innovators, students, leading education professors, authors, realists and futurists from the United States and all over the world.
Each episode features 2-4 distinguished guests in conversation about high priority topics including, for example, the teaching of public health, long-term home schooling, technology access and its alternatives, the role of parents, friendship and social interaction, learning outside the curriculum, the future of testing and evaluation, interruption as part of the academic calendar, job security for teachers and support staff, setting (and rethinking) curriculum priorities, special needs, student perspectives on the job of school, the importance of play, the psychology of group dynamics and social interaction, preparing for future rounds of a virus (or cyberattack or impact of climate change, etc.), college readiness, higher education transformed, the higher education promise in an economically challenged world, and more. Clearly, there is much to discuss; nearly all of it ranks high on the list of priorities for raising the world’s children.