How Many School Districts Are There on the Head of a Pin? by Tom King

Part of the series: Global Issues in Education

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Testifies On Obama's Education Act>

I recall a Superintendent in my bygone days who, when queried about our district’s insatiable need for more money during hard times, quipped: “I never met a dollar I didn’t like.” I suspect that applies to many of us, even if we’re not running a school district. $4.35 billion in RTTT (Race to the Top) funding is a lot of dollars to like. So how much of the meager energy we have left after our days and nights in the classroom, or supporting same, can be spent on winning the Race?

What are we to make of these well-meaning feds, from the President to the Secretary of Education, to say nothing of those reading proposals from the likes of us, and who are dangling these golden RTTT carrots in front of us…the “us” being the we being who pull and push the school district’s ancient oxcarts, loaded with kids who want to learn? These are the kids who need to learn, but far, far too often aren’t learning nearly well enough. These funds won’t likely go to the schools, being left behind, nor the students, nor the districts, but to the states!

There are 16,000 school districts in this nation and if there’s one out there who doesn’t need more money, please raise your hand. Of course, no amount of printing more money would provide enough for even the deserving top ten percent….whoever they are and whatever “deserving” means. If 20 states split the pot, each would get a couple hundred million dollars to split among school districts. If a state had, say 400 districts, the dollars would average $500,000. By the time it gets divided again amongst the schools, the pot of gold has shrunk to a more molecular level, nowhere near enough to address the lofty requirements of the RTTT manifesto.

It wouldn’t be so bad if these funds actually helped us leave no child behind. But most of the states, districts, schools and classrooms that need them most probably won’t see a nickel of it. Our local school district has to cut 25% from its strapped budget in the next 2-3 years. It would be higher if there weren’t temporary federal funds for this year (unless more money is printed). Class sizes of 50 students?Yet, higher standards? More teachers fired and more schools closed? Another “Newsweek” diatribe?

On top of that we are all being asked to ensure all the the children we teach are soon above average. Never mind that the standardized tests that measure this are designed to replicate a normal curve and ensure that only half are average or above. How can that strategy possibly help in leaving no child left behind?

Did I mention that all of this depresses me greatly? I have been looking for a silver lining or at least some answers.

Anyone? Anyone?


Tom King is a retired math teacher, the founder of the Saturn School of Tomorrow, adjunct professor for 35 years +, husband, father, grampa, friend, tennis and golf partner, coffee buddy, reader, photographer, poet, and a marveling lifelong learner. He blogs at Tom King’s Blog of De-Fog and tweets by the handle, @profTK. Read his previous contributions to Teacher Reboot Camp.

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at


  1. It is a depressing state of affairs. The silver lining? Excellent educators who are working creatively in this mess of a system we have been dropped into.

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