School District Consolidation: Some Thoughts

Posted: 12/02/2009 by that's Elbert in schools, taxes

I’d like to cover some of my thoughts regarding the discussion of school consolidation.

Let’s look at the money. The possibility of saving $45,469,422 is slim to none. There’s a number of things that should be considered.

We will need to pay a hefty salary to a superintendent for the large districts like we would have. Of course, you could pay less and scare away talented leaders. In addition, the school board members would probably demand or need a salary for their services. After all, we pay our county council members, so why not county-wide school board members?

The new consolidated district will need a new centralized building to house all those district offices. To do this, a building will be leased until one is built. That is more cash going out. The moving and merging of services and data will cost us. Guaranteed, that operation won’t be small change.

I am certain that the current administrators targeted for the chopping block will do what they can to make themselves valuable enough to keep. I’m not saying that this behavior is bad, after all wouldn’t you do what you could to keep your job, especially in this tough job market? If any are retained, that eats into the supposed savings.

Who is to say that the positions eliminated won’t be recreated in the new district? The same amount of work needs to be done with a significant drop in staff to do it. I would say that reduction won’t last long at all. It will be said that we need more help to meet the demands of such a large district. Certainly those positions will be paid either out of state money or local money.

Simply put, I think the numbers presented are inflated. If the changes were to happen as described, any savings would not happen overnight. It would take a couple of years. The likelihood of the county-wide conversion will take money to happen, which may eat up the supposed savings that we need now, not years out.

On a local level, there are several negative effects of a merger. Districts with a smaller school tax burden will suddenly and sharply see their annual tax bill go up. Those taxes will need to be in line with the other districts to whom they will be joined. This will be needed to cover the local portion of the teacher and other staff salaries, which will go up to make them uniform across the district.

The Laurel School District (my district) will be going to referendum in February to raise funds for new buildings. Do you think a county-centered district will give a rat’s behind about a referendum just to pay for Laurel’s buildings? I’m not optimistic.

Let’s cover some other less dollar-oriented issues. School board members stand a greater chance of being disconnected from those they should be representing. In my district, one board member lives right around the corner from me. The rest don’t live that far away. The likelihood of seeing one of them at the grocery store, convenience store, or a local restaurant is very high and does happen. That will evaporate with a county-wide district.

Currently school boards are elected without declaring their party affiliation. You can kiss that goodbye with consolidation. Do you think politics is involved in school boards now? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

How about the election of superintendents? That might not be out of the picture.

What seems odd to me is the support of a radical reduction of government from liberals. It’s out of character. These would be the same that would decry similar action in a private company, pointing out for criticism the loss of jobs and the increase of the workload for those that remain. I think the consolidation of power into a small group of left-leaning leaders is in fact the ultimate aim.

Don’t get me wrong. Any way we can cut fat from a budget needs to be examined. That is welcomed. What is being proposed financially is just smoke and mirrors. In the end, there will be no change at all or it may mean a more expense school system. That would mean higher local taxes, eventually becoming a greater state tax burden, and a severe loss of local control of the education of the children of Delaware.

(crossposted on

  1. Wagner is one of the few state officials that does his job well and deserves to be re-elected year after year, but the proposal to consolidate seems to be aimed at Sussex County, reflecting a typical upstate disregard for Slower Lower. Larger school districts would result in jobs lost, existing buildings (some nearly new) wasted, higher taxes (to fund increased state involvement), long bus routes, and would simply be another blow to small communities and our way of life.

  2. Frank Calio says:

    When you add up salaries exceeding $150,000 per superintendent times 19 districts plus that many asst. superintendents and eliminate duplications in human resources, finance,and other departments you are talking BIG money.
    This is not targeted at Sussex; it’s just smart business. Education takes almost 60% of our tax dollare. Are you getting your money’s worth.

    • I’ll spend the extra money to ensure that children continue to receive a quality local education from community members that I know and trust. I think there are many other problems in the public school system, most of which waste money, that should be addressed before we consider consolidation. Abolishing all forms of statewide testing, and eliminating the bureaucracy that accompanies this unnecessary and harmful interference, would be a start.

  3. LA says:

    According to the below article, from Vision 2015 and Gov. Markell, if we’re doing SO GREAT in education, then why is he trying to destroy what’s obviously working by consolidating school districts???

    Poised to Break New Ground

    Delaware’s successes in building a world-class education system continue to position the state as a leader. There is now a window of opportunity that provides an unprecedented chance to further improve the futures of more than 125,000 students enrolled in Delaware’s public schools. Our state is ahead of the education reform curve in many ways, and through our shared determination and bold action we will continue to lead the way to world-class schools. Here is a look at some of our achievements:

    · Delaware leads the nation in closing the achievement gap. In this month’s Education Trust report, the First State is noted as 1 of only 4 states that are making the most progress in narrowing gaps among student groups.

    · Delaware is 1 of the top 11 states in the nation in terms of its data infrastructure, with a governor that is leading the push to move our state to internationally benchmarked standards. In fact, last week Governor Markell was in DC speaking on this subject in his role as a co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative.

    · We are at the leading edge on student assessment – the Department of Education recently contracted with the American Institutes for Research to build its new computer-adaptive assessment system and growth model.

    · No other state boasts such a broad coalition of education, government, business and civic leaders than that which is working together to implement Delaware’s Vision 2015 plan. And the Vision Network, which now includes 25 schools serving 20,000 students – has been described as “groundbreaking.”