New York’s BOCES System: A Model for Maine?

Read the full report | Under the provisions of the school district reorganization law passed last spring, school and community leaders had until December 1 of this year to develop proposals to merge the state’s school administrative units, with the hope of saving millions of taxpayer dollars. As the deadline passed, the enormous challenge of completely redesigning the means by which the state’s schools are governed was clear. The task is not even close to being done. In an appearance before the legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on October 30th, Education Commissioner Susan Gendron testified that to her knowledge not a single one of the reorganization plans currently under development would be completed by the December deadline, much less be ready to go before voters in January, as the new law dictates.

Instead, the state’s newspapers are filled daily with stories of frustration. The proposed mergers are creating massive cost shifts that nobody seems to know how to deal with. Local officials complain that the state seems unable to provide them with the data necessary to move forward. Questions of district governance, the ownership of school property, and the future of school choice options seem to be almost impossible to sort out.

Worst of all, nearly all of these problems could have been avoided, had the law simply allowed for collaboration instead of consolidation. Despite the fact that nearly all of the savings that state officials want can be found through what might be called “functional consolidation,” state leaders insist that the school units themselves be merged as well, with widespread confusion and discontent as a result…