Friday, February 06, 2009

Merging Districts from 500+ down to 100

Like every other state, PA is struggling with the state budget. It's ugly, at best. One of the things being proposed by Governor Rendell is to consolidate our 501 districts down to 100. Read the article.

My questions is: What do you think of that idea? Pros and cons. I like to suggest that, when faced with making a decision which has such emotion tied to it, that we ask ourselves, "In this case, with our desired outcome being ____, what would a really smart person do?" That removes the emotion.

So, ask yourself ,"What would a really smart person do if the goal was to make our state's educational system be more efficient, more equitable, and more cost effective for the years to come?"

I'd LOVE to hear your answers.


gallagher said...

I don't know how I would decide this proposal but I would like to point out some of the major headaches that would arise from this.

Administrations - "Who's the boss?"

Teacher contracts - each ending at different times and each having different pay scales, benefits, etc.

Curriculum - districts have different teaching materials, text series, programs, etc.

It will take, as Jim said, some very smart persons to solve this.

Carl Anderson said...

Why not eliminate all districts, have each school run independently but have the state mass manage the teacher workforce. Schools could have the independence to hire who they wanted from this pool but teachers who are part-time could achieve full-time status by taking on jobs in different schools. Teachers would be paid by the state according to whatever the local school's pay schedule is (reflective of the % FTE).

I am not necessarily supporting this idea, just throwing it on the table.

Carl Anderson said...

What if the whole teacher workforce were converted to a partnership model similar to how law firms are run?

Dan Callahan said...

The absolute worst negative to the plan is loss of local control. Being able to vote for your local school board is a powerful element of control that the voters have in order to voice their opinions on the way the school district is run. Multiply the size of a district and the gets increasingly diluted.

I think while, in the long term the administrative savings might be good, in the short term the costs of consolidating all of those districts, administrations, curricula, etc would be gigantic.

Positives: I think it would be a potential boon for Special Education. Since I teach in a larger district, I see that we're fortunate to be able to offer more options for our special education students, and able to really specify programs for kids. My program would absolutely not exist in a smaller school district, as there just wouldn't be enough demand for it (we have 20 or so kids out of the 3000 or so currently in our middle schools), but it's been a really good program for lots of the students.

Jim Gates said...

I agree with you about the loss of local control. That's SO important in some areas. We've got districts that absolutely REFUSE to allow certain things in their schools for religious reasons. Merge that district with another and sparks will fly, for sure.

It's certainly a bold and aggressive idea, and one that was obviously not done without some thought. I'd LOVE to hear a debate on it.

Louise Maine said...

In some districts (especially small ones), having different voices at the local board would be a good thing. There is much to consider and a very difficult decision. Unfortunately, the big picture says yes, we should do this. Innovation can solve problems and maybe the kids can benefit.

Anonymous said...

I think it's inevitable. Education is evolving. For all the changes I've seen in the past decade, I can't imagine what things will be like in the classroom in 2019. Rethinking how we manage school is just part of that evolution.

Karl Fisch said...

I would ask Governor Rendell what he would think about consolidating Pennsylvania's congressional districts from 19 down to 4. Seems like you could make the same arguments about cost savings . . .

Obviously I don't know enough about Pennsylvania school districts to give any kind of reasonable opinion, but it seems to me that picking an arbitrary number like 100 to get it down to shows that this is a plan that is unlikely to work well. Why 100? Why not 132? Why not 84? If it was about education, then somebody would've already looked at the existing districts and said, "These are the ones we'd suggest combining and here's why we think this would be good for our kids (and save money)."

Jim Gates said...

I think you're right about the number 100 being rather arbitrary, and I'll bet he would say that this number was chosen to start the discussion, much like the $100 laptop idea was a target, with $150 being perfectly acceptable.

But, I also agree with you that if the idea was SOLELY presented for its educational benefits it would probably have been presented long before this, and in more states than in just PA.

The Governor is going to present another live lesson next Wednesday. He'll be giving a lesson the state's budget process, the current economy, etc. He will also take some questions from the students in the 10 high schools that will be connected live. I'll BET he'll get this question.