George Lucas Educational Foundation

Mesquite Elementary School

Grades 3-5 | Tucson, AZ

Saving Money, Sustaining Excellence

Budget cuts — you can’t get around them, but you can find ways to reduce the pain. Here's how to teach lean, make supplies last, and not shortchange your kids.
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Saving Money, Sustaining Excellence (Transcript)

Katie Dabney: When I think of the funding situation in the state of Arizona, it's kind of like the Titanic. We are 49th in the country, and here as the little Vail School District, we are the lowest in all of Pima County. We used to have $60,000 as a school to spend on instructional aids. We have now about 10,000 to spend as a school. And so we've had to become creative on how we spend those funds and what we use those funds for.

Nancy Varela: Our district really handles the budget differently than a lot of schools do, so they are able to stretch this. With the minimal things that we're getting, one of the things that we've done is try and cut down our copy budget. Each of us has a blog, a website that we post our things, like our newsletters on.

Crystal Deryke: The blog also helps with students who lose things a lot, because instead of me going and reprinting the papers, I can just tell them, 'Well, you need to go to the blog.' You wanna help him out, Max?

Katie Dabney: I go to Home Depot and I'll buy this big sheet of this special board and Home Depot will cut that for me and for $90, I have 600 slate boards. And so instead of having to use a piece of paper every time a teacher asks a student to write something, we use our slate boards.

Student: 024 secure 8 is composite.

Teacher: At the end of the number, right? So erase your white boards for divisibility rule for two--

Matthew Hough: They're great, because you get away from raising your hand, giving a thumbs up, thumbs down. You get a quick response and you get instant feedback from your students.

Teacher: They're going to do it themselves then hold onto it the whole year, right?

Nancy Varela: That's what I want to do.

Katie Dabney: We put worksheets or different activities inside of a pocket sheet protector and students will write with a dry erase marker on that pocket sheet. We erase it when the next group comes and use it again.

Crystal Deryke: At my reading stations, I copy all the paper that children are not supposed to write on in colored paper, so that they know that this is something that they're not gonna go put their name on. They're not gonna go mark up. This is something that I'll keep year after year.

Katie Dabney: We created what we call Beyond Textbooks, and it's an internet application where teachers can take those wonderful ideas and they can post it on a Wiki page. Our last textbook order at Mesquite was probably six years ago. So we've got the ship, funding-wise, that's going down, but miraculously, our achievement's not. Our achievement is the highest in the state of Arizona.

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Video Credits


  • Zachary Fink


  • Mariko Nobori


  • Daniel Jarvis

Associate Producer

  • Doug Keely


  • Cameron Trejo
  • Zachary Fink

Production Assistant and Audio

  • Jason Canfield

Video Programming Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Executive Producer

  • David Markus

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Emily's picture

Become Financially Strong is the demand of today's lifestyle.

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