67 Bucks' worth of an education

I've Griped here several times about the state of the educational system here in Utah. (and yes, I am too lazy to go back and link up the posts.) Bob over here recently wrote about the state of education in this state, and it spurred me to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time.

I've stated that it's ridiculous that there are multiple school districts in the Salt Lake Valley. This is a completely foreign concept to me. And the idea that someone would dare to suggest that the solution to the pupil/teacher ratio problem is to create ANOTHER school district chafes my strawberries. Obviously those who subscribe to this idea think that school districts run themselves, without any non-educational costs whatsoever.

So, in a kind-hearted effort to educate some of these self-righteous bigots who think their little princes and princesses would be better served by their own little school district, where they could be protected and served properly, here is a comparison.

Where I come from, there is one public school board for EVERY SCHOOL IN THE CITY. And it's not like it is here, where there are 15 little cities all butted up against each other. One huge municipality - one school district. One for public schools, and one for the Catholic schools, actually. 20 high schools, over 250 schools in all. The corresponding municipality would be Salt Lake County here.

In this county, there are 4 major school districts. Well, three major and one minor:

Salt Lake

Of the four, Murray District is the only one that doesn't have a financial report available on line. Red Flag. But that's not the point.

I looked at non-student administration costs. Costs that are NOT school-based. As in, I didn't look at individual school administration, only District Administration, and non-student based services. Here are the numbers:

Granite School District:
District Administration: 2.8 Million
Business Services: 7.4 Million
Non-Instructional Services: 11.5 Million
Total Administrative budget: 21.7 Million

Jordan School District:
District Administration: 3.4 Million
Business Services: 3.34 Million
Accounting/purchasing/data personnel: 5.63 Million
Total Administrative budget: 12.37 Million

Salt Lake School District:
District Administration: 1.75 Million
Business Services: 3.578 Million
Non-instructional services: 5.548 Million
Total Administrative budget: 10.876 Million

Murray City School District:
No Published Numbers
Assumed: 5 Million

Total Salt Lake County schools administration: 49.946 Million
Basically 50 MILLION dollars spent on Human ADMINISTRATIVE items. There are no building or capital items in these numbers at all. These are basically HUMAN and support line-items, like IT, etc.. (no teacher salaries here)

Using the published numbers from the school district I referred to above, one notes the following:

In the financial reports, ALL personnel expenditures are lumped into one sum: 491 Million. This is teacher salaries, school administration, and district administration, benefits, all lumped into one sum. All Human Resources.

For Granite SD, that number is: 247.9 + 21.7 Million
For Jordan SD, that number is: 260.24 + 12.37 Million
For SL SD, that number is: 117.56 + 10.876 Million
For Murray, that number is assumed at: 50 + 5 Million

Which totals 725.64 Million

The totals compare to each other, because number of schools is similar, and number of students is similar, between both districts (for the sake of argument, I am referring to all SL schools as one district here.)

Which is all great, except for when one notes that the Mystery District to which I refer, but not by name, actually RETIRES capital debt, transfers money into capital savings programs, and has a positive cash flow.

Swell, but look at this one:

Mystery District Class size averages for 2005/2006 school year:
K-3: 18.9
Grades 4-6: 21.3
Grades 7-9: 23.7
Grades 10-12: 25.4

So, the school districts in Salt Lake County use 234 Million more dollars than this other school district - roughly the same number of students, same number of schools. And the class sizes of the other district are almost HALF of what they are here.

The bottom line is this: It takes BIG DOLLARS to run a school district, like it or not. There isn't a reason that these costs should be copied over again because some bureaucrat thinks that kids should be educated in some different way, or that they are served somehow better. having multiple school districts serves no one. Costs are duplicated unnecessarily and efficiencies of scale go unrealized.

What could that 234 Million dollars be used for? How much MORE money could be saved with a unified school district? Certainly some cost would increase. Many others would certainly decrease. I don't have all the answers, but a realistic look at the numbers seems to show that there are great wastes of resources occurring within a four-district county.

With the legislature meeting today to affect a tax plan that would put $67 back into the average family's pocket, we certainly are showing how important education, and educators, are to our state. Ironic, isn't it?


Reach Upward said...

In Weber County we have two school districts. 80 years ago this probably made sense. One district took care of the city, and the other took care of the rural areas. Now it's all run together, so many people have thought over the years that it might be a good idea to actually put the two districts together.

Wrong-o, Mary Lou. Every time this has been tried (twice by ballot initiative), people have come out of the woodwork to scream all kinds of projected horror stories if the two should become one. Each time the idea has effectively died. Interestingly, the people that yell the loudest are the people that work for the districts, not the people whose kids go to the schools. Could it be that some are afraid of being squeezed out as duplicated services are merged?

In your example, is there any way to compare teacher salaries? Could it be that our teachers are so poorly paid because the money is gobbled up by district elements outside of the classroom? Are these elements worth the money pumped into them?

That One Guy said...

"Could it be that our teachers are so poorly paid because the money is gobbled up by district elements outside of the classroom?"

That is PRECISELY the argument. When administration costs are duplicated four times over, the losers are the teachers, and, by extension, the students. If the four districts were combined into a Unified School District, certainly there would be lost jobs. Many of them, and that's the point.

Certainly there would also be areas where increased staff would be necessary, to handle increased student services, etc. But, yes, much money gets used up at the district level, before it ever seeps down to the school level.

Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the resources to take this further and study teacher compensation specifically. The school district in my example can be found at www.epsb.ca

And before you talk about apples to apples, let me note that although there are monetary differences between the US and Canada, the example still holds water, because we are still talking about similar economies, and similar student management paradigms. Apples to apples arguments would hold more water if we were talking about a european economy. But we're not.

There's one other element that I'll elaborate on in a further post - shortly.