Los Angeles Tries Crowdsourcing Ideas for More Efficient Schools

LAUSD got 1,300 ideas in a month on how they can save money and eliminate waste.

In these budget-crunched times, students and parents spend too much time fundraising to offset school budget cuts. However, it's pretty rare for a school district to reach out to the community for suggestions on how they can save money, eliminate waste, and speed up administrative processes. Faced with a $390 million budget deficit, this spring the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest district, decided to do just that with their My Bright Idea Challenge, an effort to crowdsource new ideas for doing things more efficiently.

In just one month the campaign received 1,300 submissions from students, parents, teachers, and administrative staff. Many suggestions were things that the district is already considering, like saving money by switching to digital textbooks or installing motion-activated lights. (Others, like the recommendation that the district completely shut down its central office, were politely rejected.)

District officials narrowed down the entries to several finalists and after a period of public voting, three ideas emerged as the winners. The student winner, a seventh grader named Jordyn Sacino, suggested that the district host a visual and performing arts show open to the general public. Sacino believes that when the arts are on the chopping block, community members will be more inclined to donate money and supplies if they actually know what students are creating. Parent Amanda Millet suggested that the district reduce "printing costs, paper waste, and staff time" by moving to an online system for new student enrollment. And Gifty Beets, a project management administrator in the district, suggested the creation of an annual LAUSD 5K run/walk that would serve as a fundraiser and "show Southern California that LAUSD is truly into healthy lifestyles."

The argument could be made that art shows and walks are already happening at individual schools—my son's school, for example, hosts an annual jog-a-thon—and are just more fundraising instead of money-saving ideas. That said, taking such activities district-wide and involving the greater community ensures that people without kids connect to schools and see that we all have a responsibility to help them succeed. Let's hope that the district brings these ideas to life and continues soliciting bright ideas from the public—and that other districts across the country will follow their example.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Spigoo