Greater Opportunity Through Innovative Change
RURAL DISTRICTS CAN KEEP THEIR MASCOTS AND TEAMS
Critics of Gov. Mike Huckabee's K-12 school consolidation proposal contend it would lead to the loss of sports teams, mascots and local identity in rural Arkansas. The governor proposed consolidation in his Jan. 14 State of the State address to the Arkansas legislature, which is likely to consider the issue later in 2003, perhaps in a special session.
The Policy Foundation studied Arkansas' K-12 system (1996-98) and found it "does not require the consolidation or annexation of any school districts." But reform must include administrative restructuring within the public school system. Our study found consolidation "does not require any reduction in teaching positions or non-certified, non-administrative positions in any district." Our analysts found every school can keep its mascot, football and basketball team and preserve long-standing rivalries with other schools. The Policy Foundation's study, 'Streamlining and Cost-Saving Opportunities in Arkansas' K-12 Public Education System,' is posted online at our site: www.reformarkansas.org
Rural districts can keep their mascots and teams under administrative restructuring but the number of school administrators must be reduced through attrition or another system of efficiency. The Policy Foundation, in 1998, recommended that approximately "174 existing full-time and part-time superintendents now serving 177 of Arkansas' 311 smaller school districts be reduced in number to not more than 134 'administrative units' with each of these units being restructured to simultaneously serve two or more districts." Superintendents and other critics term our proposal "school consolidation." A more accurate description of our plan is administrative restructuring.
The Policy Foundation's recommendation was ignored and Arkansas legislators are now under court order in the Lake View case to create a new system of school finance by January 2004.
The legislature, State Board of Education and the Department of Education must work smarter to utilize every tax dollar as cost-effectively as possible. Administrative restructuring with new multi-district responsibilities has the potential to reallocate millions of dollars from administration and into the classroom for student instruction or to pay teacher salary increases. In 1998, the Policy Foundation estimated the potential savings of administrative restructuring at $17.4 million annually or $174 million over a 10-year period.