While liberals ridicule Gov. Paul LePage’s stance on school regionalization, the real issues plaguing Maine’s public school system get lost in the fray. They are the troubles seemingly too tough to tackle, but real discourse is only being offered from one side of the aisle, and it all starts by asking the right questions:
Why are public school costs rising when enrollment is down? What causes costs to increase? What percent of public funds actually make it into the classroom? What percent of public funds go to direct instruction and resources for students? Is the current system working for Maine students? Why does Maine have so many school administrators for such few students?
The Left adores it when conservative politicians speak out about public school reform because it becomes easy fodder for the liberal commentators. No matter the content or suggestion, they chalk it up as an “attack” on students, teachers or our collective futures, but offer no real discourse on the subject and accept a status quo that is harmful to Maine students and inefficient for Maine taxpayers.
So when LePage offers alternatives like school regionalization, which would cut costs and make our system more efficient, it’s no surprise he’s questioned and criticized for speaking out.
But the reality is that the system doesn’t work, and our state dumps millions of dollars annually into school administration when states across the country see higher test scores under regional systems that consolidate administrative costs and closely resemble what LePage is proposing.
Just because something is operating the way it always has doesn’t mean it is operating as efficiently as it can. It’s an organizational fallacy that I suspect has existed since the dawn of time, and is most evident when challenged by an agent of change.
When was the last time Maine took an honest look at its policies and procedures and actually tried to enhance the quality of education received, or the rate of return on our investment? When was the last time a Democrat offered something other than breaking the bank to improve public education?
That was the Democrats’ solution last election cycle when they spread misinformation about the effects Question 2 would have on smaller districts already experiencing funding deficiencies and on Maine’s job creators.
Now, owners of mom and pop shops pay a higher tax rate than corporations in Maine, and our most talented workers are buying up every one-way ticket out of the state.
Not only is school regionalization an attainable goal for a state like Maine, it’s a solution that makes sense for students and taxpayers. Resources can be shared across districts and administrative costs can be cut to put more public funds back into the classroom.
What liberals want you to believe is that Maine doesn’t spend enough on education, despite the fact that education spending has increased under LePage. The governor doesn’t want to cut education funding, he wants to spend public funds intelligently.
There is no reasonable, logical defense for Maine schools employing nearly 150 superintendents for 175,000 students. Florida, for instance, has 64 superintendents for roughly 3 million students, and receives better educational results than Maine. How can liberals accept this and allow it to continue?
Millions of these dollars could be spent on direct instruction or go straight into the classroom by simply trimming the fat caused by years of throwing dollars at a broken system.
Gov. LePage is on the right track. The money we spend on school administration in Maine is wasteful and serves no one. If a district wants to have their own superintendent or additional administrators under a regional system, let local taxpayers foot the bill. Maine taxpayers should not be collectively funding the bloated salaries of an excessive amount of school administrators when we have such few students and enrollment continues to decline.
Dozens of administrators make six-figure salaries in districts that serve just a few thousand students. It’s practically public embezzlement, and it needs to change if we want to tackle the real troubles facing Maine students.
This article first appeared in The Maine Wire.