90104 eLearning and the Budget

The Sunday Arizona Republic has two different but complementary articles. “State Treasurer Dean Martin: Arizona may run out of money in February” on the front page has some interesting numbers. Arizona’s daily “burn-rate” is $28.7 million per day. To balance the 2008-2009 budget the rate must be $17.4 million per day. The March payment of $600 million to K-12 education is in jeopardy.

Ioanna Morfessis’ article “In for the Long Hall” (Viewpoints) addresses why some state economies flourish and others fail. She features an initiative I founded with a task force in 1988 as president/founder of the Enterprise Network. Our design and advocacy resulted in the Arizona Strategic Plan for Economic Development. Its major innovation was invention and implementation of the economic cluster concept. ASPED delivered a radical blueprint to free Arizona from dependence on its one-industry-dominance by construction. During this period (late 1980’s-early 1990’s) we were in a similar savings and loan – real estate meltdown. ASPED was adopted to break out of this cycle.

Unfortunately there was a lack of continuity from governor to governor. Arizona squandered this opportunity. Twenty years later we are once again in a real estate melt down with a per-capita budget deficit that is the highest in the nation. Fortunately Arizona’s efforts from 20 years ago may provide a pathway to a disruptively innovative new solution.

An idea emerged from the dozens of ASPED focus groups and meetings that engaged 3000 Arizonans. This idea did not fit any of the standard industry or economic foundation categories. The concept was that process transformation by technology could significantly improve K-12 education as it had the other identified industry economic clusters. A small task team formed and called itself Learning/Research/Enterprise Inc. Sixteen years and several iterations later this intrepid team created the Greater Arizona eLearning Assoc. (GAZEL) in 2001 and eSATS in 2004. Meanwhile the Arizona eLearning enterprise cluster grew to $3+ billion in revenues.

K-12 education is supported by over 50% of the state budget. With all the “budget gimmicks” used up, it is expected that many hundreds of $millions will have to be cut from K-12 education this fiscal year. Fiscal year 2009-2010 looks now better. I am finding that it has been quiet at the legislature. Educational advocacy groups are waiting for legislative proposals and the Legislature is waiting for our next governor to be installed. The Arizona legislature convenes on January 12th. I can find no indication that the tough solution for the next six months has been crafted, let alone a strategic solution to smooth out these cycles.

I posit that Arizona is on a cusp where a nudge will send Arizona into one of a wide range of economic futures. The normal political process works reasonably well for critical short range single issues. But it is not well suited for the current complex long range set of issues. I suggest we use a strategic process that capitalizes on assessment, innovation and rational design.

We have three unique organizations in Arizona that have the wisdom and talent to design a budget solution in the best interests of all Arizonans:

P20 Council with Arizona leaders and experts across business, education and governance. They have three years of experience studying a wide and deep set of P20 education issues and have formulated recommendations for implementation in many critical areas.

ABEC – Arizona Business Education Coalition a group of organizations has had significant success with implementing programs and legislation to improve Arizona K-12 education. Financial reform is their top priority and they are finishing their plan to take on this enormous multi-year undertaking.

AZeLTF – Arizona eLearning Task Forces was formed by the legislature and governor’s office to make recommendations on how to transform K-12 education by addressing all aspects of the eLearning system. They have worked hard over the past two years assessing the practical effects and means to implement online, virtual, hybrid and 1:1 classroom eLearning. They have also defined what is needed at the state level to support eLearning in Arizona’s public schools.

My recommendation is simple. Organize a nine member task force of three leader members from each of these organizations. This group would be tasked to deliver — by the end of January — a working draft of state budget changes that affect K-12 education from February to June 2010. Their contribution could be recommendations for funding cuts and reallocations. The reallocations will be to rapidly implement eLearning solutions to increase individual student academic performance. The eLearning increases would compensate for education losses caused by budget cuts to traditional education.

The bottom line is best described by an analogy. The Navy’s plan in 1941 was to fight the Pacific war with battleships. Pearl Harbor changed everything, and they had to accelerate their adoption of an emerging technology – aviation. With heroic effects, they caused the tide of war to turn in our favor in just 6 months. We have only 5 months. Let’s get with it.


One Response to “90104 eLearning and the Budget”

  1. Mr WordPress Says:

    Hi, this is a comment.
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