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More for Less

As I search in vain for affordable airfare for my annual holiday trip home this year, I have noticed a disturbing trend in business: expect to get less, but pay more.  Alot more.  Airlines have started to charge for everything from checked luggage to pillows and blankets.  The fares for holiday travel are through the roof and they are expected to stay that way despite the fact that few Americans can afford to fly at all.  Airlines are not the only industry cutting back or cutting out.  I called my vetrenarian’s office the other day inquiring about their monthly low cost vaccine clinic.  “We no longer offer that service.”  I was told.  When I asked why not- “Corporate decision.”  That same day I walked into my neighborhood Seven Eleven and noticed that the lottery sign was not in it’s usual place.  “Where’s the sign?”  I asked.  “Corporate decided not to have one anymore.”  came  the reply.  How much could a plastic lottery sign be costing the Seven Eleven corporation that is pulling in several billion dollars a year in profits?  

Greed doesn’t work.  Not in the long run. While these bottom line industries are concentrating on today’s profits, they are losing tomorrow’s customers. They are forgetting that in an economy as dire as the one we are in, it is the business that offers more, extends customer service, goes the extra mile for it’s customers that are most likely to get business. Consumers have become too dollar savvy to waste money on products or services that cost more than what they are truly worth.  People drove less when gas prices were nearly $5.00 a gallon.  They conserved, they changed their habits.  The same consumer behaviors are happening with air travel, grocery shopping, pet services, clothing- anything that people have a choice in.

There is no choice in education.  Parents can’t shop around for public schools.  Does that mean that they too should get short changed just because schools too are suffering in this economy?  In my district we are on furlough days and have to make do with a ten percent reduction in our materials budget.(which brings my annual budget for 192 students to $315.00- about $1.64 per student for the year)  Should I reduce my instructional output accordingly?  Do I start “charging” students for pencils and paper the way airlines charge for legroom and pillows?  Or instead, do I redesign my curriculum to accomodate the necessary changes and as a result offer the students a richer and far more creative experience than in previous years?

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