Education tends to focus on the future — taking children at a young age and envisioning the path that will provide them with the skills and knowledge to make them wise and productive members of society.
But those lofty and long-range goals for 21st-century education often collide with the more mundane realities of operating schools and universities year to year. It's hard to think about educating students in 2020 when dwindling resources are threatening the education of students in 2010. The economic calamities that erupted in 2008 continue to wreak havoc on education spending plans for 2010 and beyond.
So, as administrators and facility planners try to leave behind a dismal 2009, the bridge to the second decade of the 21st century could use some fortification. Recovery funds from the federal government have prevented a discouraging financial situation in many states from becoming catastrophic, but the stimulus funds have not been able to prevent job losses, program cuts and scaled-back ambitions at schools and universities across the nation.
The economic difficulties may be more severe than they have been in previous years, but even in the best of times, education administrators have had to juggle and shrink their plans as expected funding sources dry up and new priorities materialize.
For 2010 and beyond, budget realities may force administrators to close underused campuses, eliminate academic programs, lay off employees, delay or forgo construction and renovation projects, and cram more students into each classroom. At the same time, the expectations and demands of parents and policymakers for improved student performance have not relented.
The only certainty is that tens of millions of students will continue to fill the classrooms and labs and lecture halls of America's schoolhouses and campuses, and educators and administrators will try to make do with the resources they have to provide students with opportunities to learn and grow.
Along the way, here are some of the issues they are likely to confront:
Outlook 2010 analysis
- Budget cuts
- Class size
- Stimulus funds
- Race to the Top
- Community colleges
Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com.