Shifting Spending to Classrooms Through Consolidation and Shared Services. In recent days, research from Greater Ohio Policy Center and the Brookings Institution has been cited in media reports and the gubernatorial race, and sparked debate about how to use resources more effectively in Ohio schools.
Receiving exposure are statistics in the report that highlight inefficiencies in the way schools have long operated in Ohio. According to the Restoring Prosperity report, Ohio ranks 47th in the nation in the share of elementary and secondary education spending that goes to instruction and ninth in the share that goes to administration. In addition, Ohio’s share of spending on school district administration is 49 percent higher than that national average. While these particular statistics do not take into account Governor Strickland's recently passed Evidence-Based Model approach to education, they do point to the ongoing need to pay attention to high administrative costs and the looking to school consolidation and sharing services as a solution.
More attention given to data from the two organizations’ report – Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy – is expected as the races of the 2010 campaign season intensify. The references point to the relevance of the data to the current economic environment in Ohio. We are at a crossroads.
In response to these statistics and other analysis, recommendations from the Restoring Prosperity report target government reform, specifically among the state’s school districts. Recommendations encourage Ohio leaders to:
- Makes the cost of school district administration costs transparent to Ohio.
- Push school districts to enter into aggressive shared-services agreements.
- Create a BRAC-like commission to mandate best practices in administration and cut the number of Ohio’s school districts by at least one-third.
Indeed a few school districts in Ohio are already rising to the occasion to achieve greater efficiencies. In northeastern Ohio, two districts – Orrville and Rittman Exempted Village Schools – share a superintendent and treasurer and are searching for additional ways to collaborate.
In Greene County, officials are in the process of identifying and developing models for sharing services and funds between school districts. And in Northwest Ohio, voters will go to the polls next month to decide whether they want to further explore consolidation in two small districts in Hancock County.
Such initiatives are promising and point Ohio in the right direction. They are part of a broader call for local governance reform, and their success facilitates solving other more pressing issues facing the state, such as land use and assisting in the physical transformation of Ohio’s cities. Both school reform and building stronger communities are integral in positioning Ohio for achievement in the next economy.