The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to development, education, and care of children and youth during their out of school hours.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Great Penny Debate

Recently, on a flight to Florida to attend the FASA Fall Conference, while reading Southwest Airlines’ travel journal, Spirit Magazine, I saw a picture of a piggybank with the heading "it costs 1.8 cents to make a penny.” Since that made no sense to me, I was compelled to read further. Did you know, according to the U. S. Mint's 2010 Annual Report[1], that rising costs of zinc and copper have made it impossible for the government to make a penny for less than one cent? And it costs 9.2 cents to make a nickel! The government lost $27.4 million last year just making pennies. Even more making nickels! And this has been happening for nearly 5 years!

I don't know about you, but this bothers me. Can't anyone in our national government (or private citizen groups) rise up and stop this example of economic waste and bleeding? Why does the great penny debate need to continue?

Still bothered, I began contemplating how the great penny debate impacts afterschool. What could we as a profession (especially our nonprofits) do with what's being lost making these outdated coins? You can only imagine. But you can also likely agree that, like the government, our professional would benefit if we could eradicate outdated practices.  But change is hard (and obviously long overdue for the pennies and nickels that constitute change in our pockets).

So I began (and I want you to join me here) thinking about how many wasteful and outdated practices we have forced upon us and tolerate burdening our profession. For starters, the hidden costs of required trainings, licensing, compliance costs, outdated paperwork (much of which could be automated) come to mind. But like the government, and perhaps because of it, we throw money down the drain without questioning, changing, and eliminating practices that are no longer practical or cost effective.  In many cases, afterschool programs are caught in a bind, forced to continue charging similar rates and provide services that are more expensive than the actual costs of supplies and resources.

Like me, maybe you didn't know that in today's world it cost more to make a penny than it is actually worth. Seems like an insignificant issue until it adds up. I know I’ve never complained about it until now, and I doubt you haven't either. But if we all joined forces and persistently voiced our outrage at this great penny debacle, I bet we could affect change (and not just in pennies and nickels).

We could certainly make change (in dollars) by speaking out more on the cost prohibitive practices impacting afterschool. What are we worth? How much more does it cost to do what we do than what we receive in return? How are we relevant?  How are needed in a bigger scope of business and education?

Join me in raising a multitude of great money debate questions related to school and afterschool. It's unlikely that we’ll get lots more money, but not improbable. If we do nothing, change is unlikely. And while we raise questions and re-evaluate, we can focus on ways to save, do our work more efficiently, and discard practices that no longer have value.

Together, we can make change.

Paul G. Young, Ph.D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association


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