Saturday, March 19, 2011

Don't cut the good stuff, or My two cents (literally)

I could tell a lot of compelling stories about how the talented, dedicated people associated with the National Writing Project have made teachers like me more effective educators, and I have a lot of test scores and samples of student work that show that they have become better writers because of the NWP programs.

Instead, I'll consider the NWP through numbers.

First off, I have to say that like every other American, I'm concerned with our ballooning deficit – currently $14 trillion (or about $45,000 for each and every one of us). It's clear that we've got to rein in spending, but we need to make sure we don't cut programs that are not only proven to be educationally beneficial but also ones that are cost-effective.  Here's why cutting funding for the National Writing Project just doesn't make sense.  In 2007 Inverness Research reported this data:
  • NWP inservice reached 90,000 teachers and 60 million students
  • 98% of teachers who attend NWP institutes say NWP is better than other professional development
  • the NWP is an "ongoing national infrastructure for the improvement of the teaching of writing."

There's no denying that our elected representatives have some difficult choices, but what will it take to close the budget gap? For an idea go to the New York Times Budget Puzzle interactive feature and try to fix the budget problem yourself.  It's pretty clear that the NWP funding won't significantly reduce the deficit. Personally I believe in the concept of "shared sacrifice."  For instance, as a baby boomer, keeping the retirement age at 65 would certainly benefit me.  But it's clear that as my generation ages, we'll need to work beyond the age of 65. According to the New York Times graphic, just by increasing the retirement age to 68, we could save $13 billion by 2015.  By contrast we would save $25.6 million by not funding the National Writing Project.

To get a sense for what that's like in the dollar amounts more like the ones I usually deal with, I'll illustrate with an example.  Let's say I wanted to buy a new Smart Pure Coupe with all the extras.  The car dealer tells me that I can have it for $14,000 and on top of that they're offering a special cost-cutting deal – 2¢ off the sticker price!

That's the kind of savings we'd get if the NWP funding gets cut. The dent put in the deficit would be a whopping 0.0000002%. 

This is one case where the savings clearly isn't worth the cost.