S.B. 2808 (a.k.a. Chapter 58), signed by Governor Cuomo at the end of March, provides financial awards to recognize districts that have maintained or improved student achievement while implementing cost efficiencies. Established in Part B of the lengthy budget bill, the District Management Efficiency Awards program provides competitive grants to districts beginning in the 2011-12 school year, based on a plan developed by the commissioner (the legislation does not specify the amount of the awards, but that awards will be based on student enrollment, and no awardee may receive more than 40% of the total funds being awarded).
The commissioner must give priority to applications that demonstrate that the long-term efficiencies implemented:
(1) Are innovative in changing management or organizational structures to generate significant savings while maintaining or improving student achievement
(2) Have the participation of teachers, parents, and/or other stakeholders
(3) Are measures/strategies replicable by other districts, or
(4) Have the greatest quantifiable savings that will be sustainable.
Rather than a poor use of government funds, I see this as an investment that may more than pay for itself. If District A is saving $100,000 a year (and keeping student achievement steady) by certain management practices that other districts in the state do not know about, a $25,000 award that brings those replicable practices to statewide attention, and entices, say, 10 other districts to adopt the same practice, is a net $750,000 win for the state.