Education Service Districts: Achieving school administrative cost savings while protecting local control and parental involvement

Read the full report | Buried in Governor John E. Baldacci’s fiscal year 2008-2009 General Fund budget is a policy change that could dramatically alter the face of Maine’s school system and eliminate local control over education. If passed, the administration’s proposed legislation will reduce the number of Maine’s school administrative districts (MSAD) to 26 from the current 286.

With such a proposal the administration is hoping to achieve $66 million in budget savings by limiting administration cost and through greater economies of scale. The governor should be commended for advancing the ideas of regional cooperation and cost savings. However, the administration’s proposal falls short of sound education policy because it sacrifices local control and parental involvement in favor of a bureaucratized model.

This report examines ways in which schools can consolidate administrative functions in order to achieve savings while still maintaining local control over education functions. Through the formation of Education Service Districts—regional cooperative associations—localities can maintain control over education functions, while achieving the administration’s required savings.

Key findings include:

• District consolidation, in and of itself, does not guarantee lower administrative costs as seen in West Virginia and California.
• Consolidation has the potential to negatively impact student achievement and parental involvement.
• Consolidation usually results in larger, less responsive bureaucracies and school boards.
• Education Service Districts are used in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota as a consolidation compromise. They
have achieved administrative cost savings while maintaining local control.
• Education Service Districts prevent the creation of additional levels of bureaucracy.
• With the Education Service District model, cost savings are achieved from non-educational functions such as human resources,maintenance, technology, special education, and transportation.