MSMA: Facts on general school administration in Maine

Maine School Management Association

Jan. 7, 2011

Get the facts on general school administration in Maine

MSMA has had numerous inquiries concerning the actual number of superintendents and school administrative units in Maine, whose numbers have decreased in recent years due to the school consolidation law and shrinking budgets.

There are now renewed calls for reducing administration even further. It is important school districts have the facts to help put this issue into perspective.

The latest numbers compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau show Maine puts 67 percent of its $2 billion in state, local and federal education funding into classroom instruction, pupil support services and instructional staff support services versus 4 percent into general administration. (See full chart below.)

In terms of the number of superintendents, school boards and school administrative units, this is the situation today based on data reported to MSMA and the state Department of Education:

  • There are 93 full-time and 29 part-time superintendents in the state.
  • That compares to 118 full-time and 30 part-time in 2006-2007
  • That’s a reduction of 26 positions.

The state’s 122 full- and part-time superintendents:

  • oversee 622 schools;
  • operate 179 school districts;
  • and, report to 249 school boards.

Those boards exist because Maine people value local control over their children’s education.

In order to keep that local control, superintendents particularly in the rural parts of Maine can deal with as many as a dozen school boards on a regular basis under the Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) form of governance – a kind of super Union – that like Unions allows communities to keep their local school boards.

It should be noted that the original goal of the school consolidation law passed in 2007 was to reduce the number of school boards and districts from 290 to 80.

While the state DOE reports there are 179 school districts today, the actual number would be greater if AOSs were counted the same as Unions, but AOSs are counted as single entities whereas the state counts every town in a Union as a school administrative unit. If they were counted the same, there would be 234 districts in Maine under the direction of the same 122 full- and part-time superintendents.

Superintendents are responsible for overseeing more than $2 billion in spending statewide and in many communities oversee a school district that is the largest business in town.

Superintendents are required by law to have a master’s degree and must have both teaching and administrative experience. They must be certified by the state and continue their education in order to be re-certified.

While there has been much discussion about putting money into the classroom, versus into administration, at the K-12 level that already is happening in Maine.

Here are the facts based on the most recent information available:

Maine spends roughly $2.3 billion on K-12, including federal grants.

Of that amount:

  • 58% or $1.36 billion is spent on wages and benefits for classroom instruction
  • 10% or $244 million on Operation and Maintenance of Plant
  • 5% or $139 million on Pupil Support Services*
  • 5% or $125 million on School-Level Administration**
  • 4% or $108 million on Pupil Transportation
  • 4% or $106 million on General (Central Office) Administration***
  • 4% or $103 million on Instructional Staff Support Services****
  • 6% or $151 million on all other functions

Source: U.S. Census: Bureau Public Education Finances 2008 Released June 2010
Note: Does not add up to 100% due to rounding

*Pupil Support Services: Expenditure for attendance record-keeping, social work, student accounting, counseling, student appraisal, record maintenance, and placement services. This category also includes medical, dental, nursing, psychological, and speech services.
**School Administration: Expenditure for the office of principal services i.e. school building central office.
**Pupil Transportation Services. Expenditure for the transportation of public school students including vehicle operation, monitoring riders, and vehicle servicing and maintenance.
***General Administration: Expenditure for board of education and executive administration (office of the superintendent) services i.e. district central office functions.
****Instructional Staff Support: Expenditure for supervision of instruction service improvements, curriculum development, instructional staff training, and media, library, audiovisual, television, and computer-assisted instruction services.

Contact: Dale Douglass, executive director
Victoria Wallack, communications director
Telephone: 207-622-3473 or 1-800-660-8484