The Political Frame

The recent cuts in school funding have created unrest within communities and school districts across the State. I’m sure that if you listen to the patrons at the local coffee shop you would hear statements like this…

“What on Earth is going on up there at that school?”

To the untrained eye, the things that are occurring within schools and communities across this great State may seem unnatural and alarming. But actually, the harangues surrounding the process of schools cutting their expenditures to balance their budget is very normal, and is to be expected.

According to Bolman and Deal (2003), there are four frames within every organization (schools are very complex organizations):

• The Human Resource Frame,
• The Structural Frame,
• The Symbolic Frame, and
• The Political Frame.
The contention that exists within schools and communities throughout the State over budget reductions is a true depiction of the Political Frame.
The Political Frame is based on the premise that conflict within an organization occurs from the distribution of scarce resource.
If an organization has plenty of money, and every group gets exactly what they want… very little conflict occurs. As money becomes more and more scarce, conflict will naturally become greater and greater. There is a direct inverse relationship between resources and conflict.
There will always be conflict between stakeholders for scarce resources. No matter what your zip code is, if you listen closely you might hear the following… high school stakeholders will say, make the cuts at the elementary. Elementary stakeholders will say, make the cuts at the middle school… Basically everyone will say… Cut Them! Not Us!…
According to Follett (1942), conflict like this is neither good, nor bad. It is just a natural occurrence.
For school boards and superintendents, the ultimate decisions are not simple. Because for them, there is not a “Them”… there is only an “Us.”
The actual decision makers often have to keep things in perspective by asking themselves very simplistic questions. Questions like: 1) Is a 1st grader’s education more important than a 12th grader’s education? 2) Is the valedictorian’s education more important than a special needs child’s education? Is an AP math class more important than a remedial math class? Is a current student’s education more important than a future student’s education?
They ask these questions simply to remind themselves that each child’s education is just as important as the next child’s. And, financial decisions must be made as equitably as possible.
There has been much written over the past year regarding the negative impact that these cuts have on students and school employees. I believe that the true unreported casualties resulting from the ongoing battles associated with the Political Frame are in fact the local school boards.
Board members decided to run for the position in hopes of creating better schools within their communities. There is no doubt that they truly care for each student and each employee within the District.
For the past several years the State has  significantly curtailed school funding. These cuts have caused major conflicts within each district. Unfortunately, most board members are ill-prepared to deal with the harsh realities associated with all the aspects of the Political Frame. For a board member, they are in a lose-lose situation. No matter what decisions are ultimately made, the board and their families could very well feel the political and social backlash of their decisions for the rest of their lives.
So, as a stakeholder, while you are out twisting the arm of your local Board Member, take a moment and also pat him/her on the back. Tell them that you understand that they are in a “tight spot.” And, you will support whatever decisions have to be made… because you know… they do have every child’s (current and future) best interest at heart.
Reblogged  (with minor changes) from:
Dr. Steve Kolb’s Blog
Whitesboro ISD Superintendent

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