A task force says Delaware stopped short of recommending aconsolidation of school districts, but recommended a statewide reassessment of property and found other cost-saving ideas.
The School District Consolidation Task Force has spent about nine months reviewing school functions from several angles and collecting nearly 200 comments from residents.
The group, comprised of educators, school administrators, parents, advocates and legislators, was divided into four sub-committees: teachers and staff, structure, finance, and academics and student needs.House Concurrent Resolution 39 School District Consolidation Task Force – Final Report
The task force ultimately did not recommend consolidating any school districts, as most options would not yield substantial cost savings and would create logistical issues, a release stated.
However, the recommendations and findings do point to additional ways to possibly save money as well as ways to positively impact academic performance for all children, including those with disabilities, English language learners (ELL), and those who come from low-income families.
“The overall effect of consolidating to just three districts would result in minimal savings at best and would create numerous problems related to facilities management, personnel management, salary, transportation and other logistical issues that would more than negate the benefit of any savings,” the report stated.
The group indicated that there could be some significant financial benefit to the consolidation of two or three contiguous districts and that the issue should be revisited.
Task Force Chair, state Rep. Earl Jaquessaid that the group was thorough in its review and offered multiple opportunities for public input in all three counties.
While the concept of district consolidation is popular, the actual implementation of consolidation created concerns from residents and logistical issues, the report claimed.
“We learned a great deal during this process, and while we found that simply combining our school districts isn’t the best option, we did discover several opportunities to save the state money, improve services and provide a better educational environment for our students and educators alike,” Jaques said.
The four sub-committees issued more than 30 recommendations in the report, including:
- Move forward with each county reassessing property values. Reassessment could provide the funding to allow current underfunded districts the dollars they need to fill positions in the schools that are currently vacant due to lack of funds.
- Review and revise the 1970s formulas which are currently used to bring the service of student transportation up to modern-era funding standards.
- Commission a gap analysis of the hardware, software and personnel structures in Delaware public schools.
- Negotiate a statewide contract for employee attendance, substitute assignment, and online application systems.
- Review the Unit System formula to ensure funding for positions in the schools that are currently not included in the formula. The last time the formula was revised was 2005 – there have been a number of newly created positions in the schools during the past 13 years.
- Review potential financial savings associated with the consolidation of county services: specialty equipment, trash services, custodial supplies, maintenance contracts, the relationship between state agencies and education agencies. Consider sharing services for unique language learners.
- Institute meetings between the three formal committees of the responsible procurement officials for the districts and representatives from OMB and the Data Service Center on a monthly basis, in an effort to find savings in the current district system. The committees should be charged with analyzing any and all opportunities to reduce expenses.
Education blogger Kevin Ohlandt was not impressed with the report.