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Weighing Professional Development in a Tight Budget

A story out of Syracuse, N.Y., outlines an interesting and relevant conundrum: When district budgets get tight, should you keep as many teacher jobs as possible—or let some folks go in order to preserve the training that's supposed to help those who keep their jobs do their best work?

That appears to be the dilemma in Syracuse, where Superintendent Sharon Conteras and several of the education policy commissioners want to prioritize investments in professional development. Sounds great, right? The catch is that hundreds of employees lost their jobs last year, and the article notes that it's not clear where the money for the support will come from.

It is no exaggeration to say that in budget crunches, professional development is often the first thing to go, certainly before employee layoffs are considered. (Remember the old refrain, "Keep the cuts away from the classroom.") But that decision comes with tradeoffs, too, which are aptly summarized in the story by district policy committee chair Monique Wright-Williams.

"You could have 100 teachers in classrooms, if none of them know what they're doing, you still don't get any results, so I'd rather have 50 sound, solid teachers yielding positive results for our students," she said. "We're going to have to pay to get the desired outcomes that we want."

Readers, what insights can you bring to this discussion?

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