Posted by: crudbasher | January 25, 2011

The Education Bubble is Popping

America has been on a sugar rush for almost 2 years now.  The $787 Billion stimulus bill passed right after President Obama took office is now running out.  The extra $100 Billion passed last year for education is running out.  The massive 30 year education bubble is about to pop.  Basically it’s time for states to pay the piper.

(cc)Pink Sherbert Photography

This is going to involve what every other person in America has had to do already; spend less money.  It is silly to think that government should somehow be immune from this.  Since most education is run by the government, they will have to cut also.

But from where?  How?  Tom Vander Ark suggests a few ideas in this article listed below.  There will be many things passes around for cuts but in the end the only thing that matters is labor costs.  If there isn’t a serious attempt to cut the number of people required to provide education then nothing will change.  Since schools currently are based on a factory model, how have factories in this country reduced costs with technology?  In three ways: computer technology, automation and outsourcing.  These are all going to come to education too.

Computer Technology:

Factories were able to get rid of a lot of administration by using modern computer programs.  The days of the typing pool are long gone.  Schools will need to drastically reduce their administration costs by eliminating positions that aren’t getting a good return on investment.


Factories replaced many workers with robots.  If your job involves something that doesn’t involve thinking, you will be replaced by a computer. Teachers already use scantron machines but much of their time is spent just grading and assessing their students.  In addition, they waste lots of time each day in presenting material in class which could be done online while the student is at home.  With blended learning, students spend less time at school and more time learning online.  This will allow each teacher to handle more students, and yet work in smaller groups with more time for individual attention.


The job a teacher does every day will be split up into many pieces.  Some of these pieces you will still need a teacher in the classroom to handle, but many of them will not. For example, if a student is having trouble figuring out why their math problem is wrong, you don’t need the teacher to answer that. The student could connect online with someone anywhere in the world and get the answer immediately.  Teachers would then get a report of this contact the next day so they can keep track of what is happening.  Teachers are going to be expected to deal with more students, and yet do better with each one.  Technology will make that possible.

All these things are going to happen.  The reason it hasn’t happened so far is because the funding for the current system was artificially propped up.  This coming back down to reality is going to force changes in the system, mostly for the better I think.

Party’s over folks.

Comments are invited!

  • Funding problems with public schools

    tags: education funding

    • I spent Saturday morning listening to Washington State House Education Committee testimony from school board members, teachers, principals, and parents of kids in special program all speaking against budget cuts. No one in the room seemed to understand that everything is different this time.
    • Money manager Whitney Tilson suggests that the fiscal crisis “means that the 100+ year bull market in education funding is likely over.” Over the last thirty years, we doubled staffing ratios, added generous pensions, and greased the wheels of reform with lots of extra spending–that is over. The ARRA stimulus will be noted as the zenith of education funding (and federal control in education); states are broke, the cliff is here.
    • The budget cuts will be huge in most state for several years to come, but it actually gets worse when you consider the swelling pension tsunami and the $18 trillion of hard debt not on the books.. Education will be crowded out by Medicaid, corrections, and emergency spending on deferred infrastructure.
    • So what is a governor or state legislator to do?
    • State policy makers need to lead on school based budgeting, blended learning, and performance-based employment.
    • To absorb 20% cuts and boost outcomes, schools will need to incorporate personal digital learning. By blending online and onsite learning, schools can save money and boost academic outcomes.
    • American education will slowly adopt a new employment bargain that includes differentiated and distributed roles, higher pay for more responsibility and better performance, and more front loaded opportunity with less focus on pensions.
    • We can’t solve this education fiscal crisis the old way–it is much larger and will last much longer; it is the start of a new era, not a storm to be weathered.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. I am sorry, I just don’t see technology as the answer to cutting costs in education…yet. Current hardware, software, network infrastructure and support costs are more than many districts can afford even if they eliminate the jobs the technology is meant to replace. Furthermore, the cost of keeping up with technology is ongoing and ever-rising. I think districts will decide it is better and more cost effective to keep people working than to lock into a systems overhaul that will most likely be outdated and unusable unless it is continually be maintained and upgraded.

    As for blended learning…great idea in concept, but if not all students have access it has the potential to widen the current achievement gap and possibly create new ones, not to mention leave schools open to civil rights law suits, which are expensive to defend.

    Sadly, I think only the schools that already have the resources they need will be able to cut costs by choosing technology options. For the ones with few resources, technology solutions may be out of reach.

    • Well you raise valid points. There is more opportunity now for cloud computing than in the past so perhaps districts can avoid a lot of the support costs? That way, the updates are done in the cloud and all the school has to provide is an internet connection and some ipads.

      As for blended learning, I think it’s more a question of when rather than if. For what a school district spends on textbooks each year, could they give an iPad to each student? If not this year, how about next year when prices go down? Look at it like a calculator. Those used to be expensive too but now even poor children can have one.

      It has been an overwhelming trend in technology that it gets better and cheaper. Once IT technology gets into education the same should happen there. The current system is very very labor intensive. That has to change and I think will be able to change soon. This current economic crisis will make it happen faster.

      Thank you so much for you comments! It’s great to see things from a different point of view!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Andrew Barras. Andrew Barras said: New Post: The Education Bubble is Popping #edchat #edtech […]

  3. The problem in education right now is that there is so much waste. The amount of money spent on a standard, boxed curriculum and testing alone is enormous. I think that technology could answer for both of those. I’m not sure that tech alone will be the answer becuase we still have kids who attend school more than just because it is a place to learn. Some kids have to have a school because it is the only hot meal that students eat in a day, because it is the only place where they get healthy support from adults. Right now schools are more than just a place to learn, they are trying to make up for deficits in the structure of society. That is expensive and I’m not sure it can be addressed with technology alone.

    • I understand where you are coming from Kelly, but really if kids need a hot meal every day, why is school the place where they get it? This is part of the problem. Schools should be for learning, but they have so many other roles now. I would submit that many of the roles schools do now are supposed to be done by parents. It’s a shame. Of course thinking that doesn’t change the reality.

      Having schools do so many other tasks seems to me to be wasteful and inefficient. Of course that is government in a nutshell. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!!

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