2014-05-15 / Opinion

Time to Speak Out on Regionalization

To the Editor:

At the upcoming Middletown Town Council meeting on Monday, May 19, Councilor Robert Sylvia will formally ask for a vote to table the regionalization exploratory committee for the time being and for the council to spend their time and energy on more important issues.

It’s time to speak out and voice your opinion: Call one of the council members, call town hall, call the school superintendent, or attend the council meeting. There is also a poll on newportri.com.

The academic and economic risks of us merging with Newport are very high and there are too many unknowns.

Some propionates on the Newport County Unified High School Exploratory Committee, have said: regionalization would save money and enhance education for our students. Rhode Island has experience with regionalization, Exeter/West Greenwich, Chariho, Bristol/Warren, and Foster/Gloster, both administrative and per pupil costs has ballooned. There was no savings.

It was said by the above representatives, to our previous committee, if you’re doing this to save money, don’t bother.

Below is the executive summary, from the National Education Policy Center, entitled; Consolidation of Schools and Districts that tells the opposite. (School of Education, University of Colorado, Boulder, nepc.colorado.edu.) The article is one of a series of briefs made possible in part by funding from The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, greatlakescenter.org .

“Executive Summary: Arguments for consolidation, which merges schools or districts and centralizes their management, rest primarily on two presumed benefits: (1) fiscal efficiency and (2) higher educational quality. The extent of consolidation varies across states due to their considerable differences in history, geography, population density, and politics. Because economic crises often provoke calls for consolidation as a means of increasing government efficiency, the contemporary interest in consolidation is not surprising.

However, the review of research evidence detailed in this brief suggests that a century of consolidation has already produced most of the efficiencies obtainable. Indeed, in the largest jurisdictions, efficiencies have likely been exceeded— that is, some consolidation has produced diseconomies of scale that reduce efficiency. In such cases, deconsolidation is more likely to yield benefits than consolidation. Moreover, contemporary research does not support claims about the widespread benefits of consolidation. The assumptions behind such claims are most often dangerous oversimplifications. For example, policymakers may believe “We’ll save money if we reduce the number of superintendents by consolidating districts;” however, larger districts need—and usually hire—more mid-level administrators. Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs.

For these reasons, decisions to deconsolidate or consolidate districts are best made on a case-bycase basis. While state-level consolidation proposals may serve a public relations purpose in times of crisis, they are unlikely to be a reliable way to obtain substantive fiscal or educational improvement.

Recommendations: Closely question claims about presumed benefits of consolidation in their state. What reason is there to expect substantial improvements, given that current research suggests that savings for taxpayers, fiscal efficiencies, and curricular improvements are unlikely?

Avoid statewide mandates for consolidation and steer clear of minimum sizes for schools and districts. Consider other measures to improve fiscal efficiency or educational services. Investigate deconsolidation as a means of improving fiscal efficiency and improving learning outcomes.” Antone C. Viveiros

Middletown

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