It’s time for state to consolidate its school administrators

Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, state funding of pre-kindergarten through grade 12 public education rose $360 million, according to state Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican who represents much of our region.

Indeed, the state’s allocation for public education seems to always be rising and it never seems to be enough.

During an interview with the Sun-Gazette editorial board last week, the newspaper brought up school district consolidation as a possible money saver. Everett, while commenting it’s time to “demand more bang for our bucks,” said statewide consolidation of school districts is a path to more efficiency with education funding but added it’s not a solution many lawmakers want to pursue.

In our view, the Legislature is being lazy in not pursuing school district consolidation.

In Florida, a more heavily populated state than Pennsylvania with just as much diversity and complexity, there are county school districts, saving a ton of administrative costs. In Pennsylvania, there are 500 school districts. In Lycoming County, there are eight.

When the Sun-Gazette surveyed superintendent salaries and benefits in December 2013, the collective pay total was $993,832 in salaries. All received health insurance and at least one other form of insurance (life, dental) plus other benefits, such as tuition reimbursement, mileage, cellphones and laptops.

So the cost of salary and benefits for the superintendents totaled significantly more than $1 million then and is greater now.

This is not intended to belittle our administrators and superintendents. We have some fine education leaders who are part of the reason the public education in our region is above the curve in quality.

But the cost of public education cannot continue to rise.

Local taxpayers have a finite amount of money for school taxes and most of them are well beyond. While public education funding is among the state’s top mandates, that doesn’t mean there is an endless pot of cash sitting there.

We are not talking about taking away the school/community identities.

And we believe adequate numbers of teachers that keep class sizes small enough to maintain quality instruction must always be the top education priority.

That priority is particularly true in the more urban school districts, where quality education is likely the best way to help kids overcome a variety of cultural disadvantages.

What we want to see is a hard look at the numbers of administrators we have in our public schools and some form of consolidation, perhaps with a county school district setup.

The reality is the cost of public education must be brought under control and the priority must remain with instruction.