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School District Consolidation: The Time has Come

December 7th, 2006 by Halli

A much-despised discussion may arise again in the 2007 Idaho Legislature regarding school district consolidation. The legislature will be forced to examine school appropriations and spending in new ways as it determines the best method for replacing the Maintenance and Operations (M & O) funds that will no longer come from local property tax. And one of the most obvious ways to save money and get more dollars “into the classroom” is to cut down on gross overspending for district administration.

Idaho has over 100 distinct school districts, with a total enrollment of 261,907 students for the fall of 2006. Our neighboring state, Utah, with an enrollment of 510,012 students has only 40 districts. in other words, Utah has less than half the number of district administrations serving almost twice the number of students.

It must be possible to actually calculate the cost of our expensive habit of supporting school districts in every little crossroad of the state, but I do not have the facts to do so. It doesn’t take much brainpower, however, to understand that millions of dollars are wasted in duplication of services that could be saved by consolidating districts.

The most obvious expense of district administration is the salary paid to the superintendent. A survey of the state reveals that most district superintendents earn around $100,000 per year, plus sometimes ridiculously generous benefits valued at many $1,000’s more. Certainly schools and districts need some sort of administrative oversight, but how much is too much? Remember the days when the school principal was also a classroom teacher? How many business managers, curriculum coordinators and assistant superintendents do we need per student?

The Idaho Association of School Administrators is anxious to defend their own existence. But the fact of the matter is that very few administrators are required to see that buildings are in repair, teachers show up to teach, and children are safe in school.

The time for school district consolidation is looming large in our near future.

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Taxes | No Comments »

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