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Gendron details education plan savings
Local Schools, Regional Support Initiative streamlines central office administration
January 8, 2007
AUGUSTA – Education Commissioner Susan Gendron outlined more details on Monday of Governor Baldacci’s proposal to reduce the number of school administrative units and central offices in Maine from 152 to 26. The proposal is part of a broad effort by the governor to reorganize central office administration to save money, gain efficiencies and to improve education at local schools.
The Local Schools, Regional Support Initiative, unveiled by Baldacci on Friday, is a comprehensive education funding and reform package that includes more than $170 million in direct tax relief in the first two years, as well as a quarter billion dollars in state and local savings in the first three years of implementation, starting July 1, 2008.
According to Gendron, the LSRS Initiative would close no schools and result in no teacher layoffs. Rather its focus is entirely on streamlining central office administration and improving services to local schools.
“We are talking about shifting resources from central office administration to the classroom to achieve excellence in education for every student in every classroom in every local school,” Gendron said.
Gendron said the LSRS Initiative is the culmination of years of reports and commissions, including the Brookings Institution report and one from the Maine Children’s Alliance, that have hit home the same recurring theme: Maine’s educational system is top-heavy with administration due in large part to the multiple small school districts throughout the state.
Several of those commissions, including the Governor’s Task Force on Increasing Efficiency and Equality in the Use of K-12 Resources created by Baldacci in 2003, and the more recent Select Panel created by the State Board of Education, included membership representing all the key stakeholders: school administrators, municipal officials, business people, parents, and others.
“I don’t think the people of Maine want to wait any longer; I don’t think they want another study commission,” Gendron said. “They’ve spoken loudly about reducing spending, and they’ve spoken loudly about the need for improved outcomes in the classroom.”
“This is one of those times when spending less will actually get us more,” she added. Gendron said more centralized administration will result in a more cohesive and consistent approach to instructional methods and understanding of the Maine Learning Results standards. It will allow a smaller group of superintendents to meet regularly with the commissioner and better coordinate efforts like professional development.
In addition to local property tax relief, the savings generated by the administrative restructuring will allow for reinvestment in students and teachers. The highly successful laptop program in grades 7 and 8 will now be expanded through to 12th grade; professional development will be better coordinated; and more than 15,000 students over four years who are eligible for Pell grants will now receive an additional scholarship, averaging $2,000, to any public college or other post-secondary school in Maine.
Speaking to the new governance structure, Gendron said regional school boards that look a lot like existing School Administrative District boards would oversee educational policy in each of the 26 regions. The existing 290 school boards across the state would remain for a transition period in an advisory capacity. Each region would determine a structure for local advisory councils, either at the existing school board level, or at each school, to serve in a supporting role for education at each school, and as a voice for school-specific concerns.
The LSRS Initiative includes two significant sources of savings. The first is more than $170 million of new state money in the next two years going to local education in order to achieve the 55 percent goal for the state’s share of local education costs. Baldacci has pledged to veto any legislation that does not include a requirement for that money to go back to local property taxpayers as was originally intended with the passage of the Property Tax Reduction Law (LD1) two years ago.
The second source of savings is the administrative restructuring itself. Those savings would start in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2008, when the new regional centers will be up and running. In the first three years of implementation, the restructuring is expected to save almost a quarter billion dollars - $109 million in local savings and $132 million in state savings, representing the locals’ 45 percent share of education costs and the state’s 55 percent share.
Some of the state savings would be rolled into programs such as the laptops expansion and the post-secondary tuition scholarships. Local savings would be expected to go back to taxpayers.
Another feature of the LSRS Initiative is an increase in the student:teacher ratio at middle schools and high schools to 17:1 to match the existing elementary school ratio. That shift would result in the loss of about 650 teaching positions, but no teacher layoffs. That’s because roughly 1,500 teachers are lost each year to voluntary attrition. “Districts will hire fewer new teachers in the first year of the initiative, but no layoffs will be necessary,” Gendron said.
More information about the LSRS Initiatve, and an option to sign up for updates by email, may be found on the Department of Education website at:
David Connerty-Marin, Director of Communications, Maine Department of Education, 207-624-6880
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