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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

HB 1247: Consolidate School Administration and Services

Dr. Fahrenwald, buff up that résumé...

Republicans love reforming education by firing people. GOP legislators Rep. Jacqueline Sly and Sen. Jim Bradford have floated HB 1247, a measure to create school administration regions and consolidate administrative and support services in our K-12 system. It's semi-consolidation: no school district is closed, but all school districts with enrollment under a thousand (in Lake and surrounding counties, that's everyone but Madison, Brookings, West Central, and Sioux Falls) would be required to share "superintendents, assistant superintendents, business managers, and other management level employees." The bill excludes building principals from the shared hire requirement. It does allow regions to consolidate other service specialists, including "curriculum directors, technology coordinators, speech pathologists, directors of special education, and others who provide services within a school district."

This plan would leave a couple dozen big districts untouched. It could semi-consolidate 140 districts into maybe fewer than 50 regions. Suppose that cuts 90 supers, 90 business managers and maybe 200 service specialists. Save $40K a head (wild guess), and that's over $15M statewide. Not bad for a plan that doesn't close a single school, fire a single teacher, or make a single child ride the bus to the next county.

I rather like this plan. It's worth talking about. The sticking point I have is letting the state secretary of education draw the region boundaries. One way or another, this plan is orders from Pierre, a contradiction of Republicans' commitment to local control. But local districts might find the orders more tolerable if the Legislature let them pick their own teams. I wonder—would self-organized admin regions work any better?


  1. Michael Black2/03/2010 7:48 AM

    Cory, again you've not thought this through at all. You claim that we can "save" $15 million in slaries while in reality this will cause another level of pencil pushers, take local control away and in effect get rid of the small schools. I suggest that costs may go up instead of down.

    Small school administrators wear many hats: they might coach, drive bus and teach class. This saves taxpayer dollars while keeping them in contact with students. I might see Carl three or four times a week. I highly doubt that a super super would even care about going to almost every game, concert or play in their district.

    I do find it ironic that the same state gov't that constantly adds new degree programs to higher ed puts the screws to K-12 schools.

  2. I like this and have floated this idea many times. If you count the 90 supt's that are cut, the savings will be higher than your $15M predicted. Just have to be sure that the cut supt position isn't replaced by two more principal positions!

  3. Rutland and Oldham-Ramona used to have one superintendent that covered both districts, and that supt. split his time between both disricts. If I recall correctly, there were, however, principals at each of the schools.

    When that superintendent retired, each district opted to hire its own administration.

    changes like these may seem like good ideas on paper, but the reality is, the positions wouldn't be full-time positions if they weren't full-time jobs.


  4. Michael Black2/03/2010 2:50 PM

    The state education dept. can't figure out how many students the state has. If they can't count, why would we trust them to create new regional districts?

  5. Elisa hints at the truth here- that local school boards already have the ability to combine administrative functions with other districts. ORR used to but hasn't for awhile; other districts have been doing this successfully for years.
    But the fact that most districts are not choosing to do this should tell us something. We can trust the collective wisdom of school board members across the state to do weigh out all of the factors for this or any other decision and do the right thing for their districts.

  6. Elisa-

    From my time working for bureaucracies, I completely disagree that the existence of a position means that it is needed. It simply means that there is money in the budget for it.

    Also, I find it incredibly interesting how the private sector continually reduces overhead by implementing technological solutions while the public sector attempts to do the same, but keeps the extra people employed.

    Universities are an incredibly interesting place to study this phenomenon because they are a mix of people that are state funded and those that work on soft money (research grants). Those that are soft money based use every bit of technology to do more in less. The state employees by contrast are rewarded with more employee slots by being inefficient. Getting less work done for them means getting more employee hires approved.

  7. Our area K-12 schools are extremely efficient. Educators are being pressed to do more every year. As attrition and retirements occur, districts are either not replacing people or going part-time which spreads another "job" across the backs of those still working at the school.

    The idea of consolidating leadership or having county-wide schools with one superintendent seems great on the surface, but the practicality of it would be no different than electing one mayor among five or six neighboring cities. They each have their own unique needs.

    Local control of education is guaranteed by law in our state because our forefathers felt we knew what was best for our local educational needs. The State seems to think because they collect our sales and property tax dollars from us and send some back to us through the schools, county and city, that they should have control.

    Maybe each City and County should collect and retain ALL the sales tax and property tax dollars and simply send the State what they are entitled to each month. Maybe they would become better listeners.


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