2017-11-09 / Opinion


Another Look at Regionalization

To the Editor:

In response to a letter in Newport This Week’s Nov. 2 edition, titled “Resisting Change Doesn’t Have Education at Heart,” by Middletown Councilor, Barbara A. VonVillas, who continuously advocates for school regionalization, even though the facts do not show regionalization enhances both education and the economy.

Some say that opponents are more interested in keeping power and control in the hands of the governing body of a community. Fact: they are more interested in protecting people’s rights and property. Title 16 Chapter 16-3 Section 16-3-11 removes it.

Rhode Island has experience with regionalization, Exeter/West Greenwich, Chariho, Bristol/Warren, and Foster/Gloster, it has ballooned both administrative costs and per pupil costs. Said representatives have said, if you’re doing this to save money, don’t bother.

Attached is the executive summary, from the National Education Policy Center, entitled; Consolidation of Schools and Districts. School of Education, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0249 Telephone: 303-735- 5290 Fax: 303-492-7090 Email: NEPC@colorado.edu http://nepc.colorado.edu

This is one of a series of briefs funded from The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. greatlakescenter.org Great- LakesCenter@greatlakescenter.

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 review of research evidence detailed in this brief suggests 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-by-case 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 Councilor

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