Donaldson: Reorganization Penalties Must Go

Reorganization Penalties Must Go

1. IT’S WRONG TO PUNISH SOME MAINE TOWNS AND DISTRICTS WHEN “LESS EFFICIENT” DISTRICTS WERE “EXEMPTED” FROM REORGANIZATION

A. Many “exempted” districts* spent more than the state per pupil average in 2007-08:

for Total Expenditures (35% of “exempts” above state av.)See note.

for System Administration (30% spent above state av.)

for School Administration (40% spent above state av.)

for Student/Staff Support (58% spent above state av.)

for Regular Instruction (35% spent above state av.)

* not counting the 11 island/MIE units, all of which are above state average

b) Some “Exempted” districts spent more in ‘07-8 than many of the “Non- complying” towns that now face financial penalties. (39% of “non- complying” units spent less per pupil than the average “exempt” district) See note.

c) The “Exempted” districts, on average, spent more per pupil in ’07-8 than did the districts that voted to reorganize into RSUs.

In other words, many towns and districts were not required to reorganize despite facts showing that they were less efficient than many districts that were required to reorganize. On the basis of efficiency, it is indefensible to penalize “Non-complying” Maine towns and reward “Exempted” units.

2. NON-COMPLYING DISTRICTS MADE INFORMED DECISIONS ABOUT REORGANIZATION; BY CONTRAST, THE STATE’S POLICY AND PROCEDURES WERE NOT “DATA-BASED”

Most non-complying districts studied the benefits and drawbacks of reorganization and concluded that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits. By contrast, the Maine Department of Education presented no data to justify why these towns and districts should reorganize. In fact, some of these units are more efficient than “Exempt” units and than many units forming AOSs.

In other words, an informed decision, made by citizens who know their schools and know their finances, is a more defensible decision than an uninformed policy. Purely on the basis of sound decision-making, it is indefensible to penalize “Non-complying” Maine towns.

3. ALL TOLD, VERY FEW TOWNS AND DISTRICTS CHOSE TO REORGANIZE; THE BENEFITS ARE SIMPLY NOT THERE.

Only 20 School District offices were closed by reorganization (accounting for only 16.4 full-time school superintendents). In only 4 cases did three or more central offices consolidate. Projected savings, after the new expenses of reorganization, were $1.6 million annually for three years (compared to the $36 million State target).

In other words, the Reorganization Law missed its target by a wide margin. Penalizing towns and districts for NOT agreeing to a law that shows few benefits makes no sense whatsoever. Purely on the basis of effectiveness, it is indefensible to penalize “Non-complying” Maine towns.

4. MAINE TOWNS AND CITIES ARE FACING SEVERE FINANCIAL SHORTFALLS; THEY DON’T NEED ONE MORE COST, PARTICULARLY WHEN IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Most non-complying Maine towns and districts are in the poorer, more rural regions of the state. In these districts, an already small tax base is now rapidly shrinking. The state has now failed to meet its obligation to help fund Maine schools for five years running. Why rob the poor to pay for reorganizing the wealthy?

In other words, to penalize non-complying districts is to sucker-punch Maine citizens who are already on their knees. Purely on the basis of affordability and common sense, it is indefensible to penalize “Non- complying” Maine towns.

IT IS WRONG TO PENALIZE MAINE TOWNS BECAUSE THEY CHOSE NOT TO REORGANIZE. WE URGE THE MAINE LEGISLATURE TO REMOVE THE REORGANIZATION PENALTY AND FIND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO GAIN EFFICIENCIES

NOTES:

1. Inefficient Units free of Penalties: Exempted Districts spending more than the state average PPE in 2007-08:

Falmouth, Kittery, Lisbon, SAD 3 (Unity), SAD 51 (Cumberland), SAD 54 (Skowhegan), SAD 61 (Lake Region), SAD 72 (Fryeburg), SAD 75 (Topsham), Portland, South Portland, Wells-Ogunquit, Westbrook, Yarmouth, York

2. More Efficient Units facing Penalties: Non-Complying units spending less than the average PPE for Exempted Districts:

Appleton, Otis, Dedham, Orrington, Fayette, Hermon, Greenbush, Milford, MSAD 23 (Carmel), Medway Woodville, MSAD 4 (Guilford), Jonesboro, Machias, East Machias, Marshfield, Northfield, Roque Bluffs, Whitneyville, Jonesport, Dennysville, Crawford, Robbinston, Baileyville, Cooper, Meddybemps, Baring Plt, MSAD 32 (Ashalnd), MSAD 33 (Frenchville), MSAD 36 (Livermore Falls), MSAD 41 (Milo), MSAD 42 (Mars Hill), MSAD 45 (Washburn), Bridgewater, Caswell, Woodland (Ar.), Gilead, Grand Isle, Hersey, Highland Plt, Moro Plt, Nashville Plt, Pleasant Ridge, Talmadge, Carroll Plt,

Gordon Donaldson

Maine Small Schools Coalition

January 2010