April 23, 2020 | Larry Buchweitz
If you are anything like me, you are losing track of time. I'm used to working from home, but not being home all the time. Outside of listening to my favorite jam bands and watching the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series on YouTube, like others, I spend a lot of time thinking about those suffering from COVID-19 and the brave professionals working to protect us.
I'm also reading a lot about our industry and the impact of this crisis on educators and students. It's clear that despite some movement forward, there is still a lot unknown, especially in terms of who's buying education products, how are they responding, and when they will make decisions.
A nice part of this weird time is that a lot of people are calling to talk. Industry friends and customers are calling to discuss our current situation and we often look back at what we know from the past. COVID-19 is unprecedented, but the current concerns about spending and budgets have happened before. So yeah, I'm going to talk about the last recession.
A Look Back
When the housing bubble popped in 2008 and local and state revenues took a nosedive, spending at the local level was severely cut, with reductions by more than $400 per child between 2008-2010. The federal government kicked in billions, expanding funding to nearly pre-recession levels and with a particular focus on Title I and special education. Although those funds eventually ran out, the economy was recovering, and state and local budgets began to pick up the slack.
Back then, LOTS of clients were calling about what to do to market their products and services…that is what is most similar to the situation today.
Aside from the differences in physical danger and tragedy of our present state, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) committed more than $100 billion dollars to education at the time and commitment of those funds could be built on a multi-year strategy. In 2009, education businesses did not have a clearly defined digital strategy; that has changed dramatically for most businesses in 2020. And schools weren't physically closed, most likely for the rest of the year, at the peak buying time for fall 2020.
So here we are with a new set of unknowns:
No one can definitively answer these questions yet, but my colleague Lynn Schear is monitoring funding changes closely, and our research team constantly updates our School Status Map to help you stay on top of how students are being instructed, when buildings are planning to reopen, and where federal dollars are being allocated. We'll continue to add to the insight we can provide as new information emerges.
Here's What I Do Know
Executing existing plans and making new ones is a challenge with so many questions yet to be answered. What I do know is that standing still won't work and presents even bigger challenges down the road.
What Others are Doing
I'm hearing great stories from clients and industry leaders about what they are doing to support schools. Many of you heard how businesses like DreamBox Learning came out of the gate early with making their products free and more associations and providers are sharing what they are hearing from educators. Here are a few tidbits, with thanks to the organizations who created these learning opportunities:
The Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) put together a discussion for members with Chief Technology Officers from North Carolina and Indiana this week. Here are a couple of soundbites from those educators:
The DOLS – one of our industry's most effective networking group – has held regular meet ups to share experiences across the vendor community. My colleague Tracey Cochran participated in a recent call and heard these themes from the group:
Despite the challenges shared above, our friends at EdWeek Market Brief surveyed district leaders recently to hear how they are getting product information. Almost half of respondents said they are getting information via email…which leads me to think now may be a great time to build relationships, share your value and build brand and a pipeline for when buying kicks into gear.
What I Would Do
In addition to anticipating the opening of school this fall, we have a presidential election right around the corner. That is additional change we need to anticipate, regardless of who wins. We're in for a year of uncertainty, but there is one thing I know for sure, as a people we have a way of persevering, and out of challenge we've seen amazing innovation and growth. Now that schools are functioning for the next month or so on these interim plans, decision makers are also thinking to next year and the future. They have students to educate and spending plans to put in place.
Let's all strive to be part of the solution by looking at how we can adapt and evolve to meet the needs of our greatest asset – our kids.
I'm here if you want to chat about your business, music recommendations, and always, the Cubs.
Need More Time?
Due to inactivity, you will be logged out within 5 minutes.
To stay logged in, please select Stay Logged In.