The introduction of a school-to-work reform inevitably means expenses that are not part of the standard budget schedules of school districts and secondary schools. Many sites visited by the AED/NIWL research teams reported some initial struggle to secure the resources required to implement a school-to-work reform, and many were still experiencing uncertainty about the future of the reform because of financial issues.
The sites visited by AED/NIWL reported that they needed financial support (or in-kind contributions) to cover the following kinds of expenses:
We found considerable variety, across sites and within sites, as to which resources were considered necessary for the reform. For example, some sites hired no new staff members; others made the coordinator or job coach role a key element of the reform. Some relied extensively on professional development for staff; others provided no release time or training. Some were able to tap into the existing school transportation system; others let students rely on public or personal transportation to travel to and from their work and postsecondary education sites.
We also found variety as to how sites covered these expenses. Some applied Carl Perkins basic vocational funds to implementation. At least two secured discretionary Perkins monies. In a few states, like California, the state system of education was an important source of implementation funds. The transition programs studied by AED/NIWL that initially focused on special needs populations were especially creative in weaving together funds and services provided by a variety of government sources, including education, job training, and rehabilitation funding programs.
Resources from the private sector also played a key role in implementation, typically directed to a particular occupation. Thus Honeywell contributed funds and technical assistance to the Metro Tech electronics program in Phoenix, and the airline industry contributed major equipment and assistance to the Aviation Magnet in Louisville, Kentucky. Many schools successfully called upon business partners to contribute advice, funds, materials, equipment, personnel, and student placements.
The AED/NIWL research team did not, it should be noted, conduct any cost analyses of school-to-work reform. While schools must find funds to pay certain implementation costs for these reforms, it is not clear that, in the long term, functioning school-to-work programs or systems are necessarily more expensive than standard classroom-based programs or systems. Comparative analyses of costs, and more importantly, cost-benefit analyses that take outcomes into account, could clarify the issue of relative costs for policy makers and practitioners.