Letters to the Editor week of 8/2/07

306

Positive feedback

To the Editor:

I would like to thank all of those people who have made positive comments about my “Letters to the Editor” concerning the embezzlement of our school tax dollars.

I am energized by your support (both, all the comments made to me in person and the telephone calls made to our home). You know who you are. This indicates you card and you are thinking about what’s happening with our schools.

Yes, we are concerned about our community. We live in Switzerland County. We pay taxes in Switzerland County. We vote in Switzerland County. We want things resolved in our school corporation.

Nancy Peters

Near Vevay

Property taxes

To the Editor:

While most citizens understand that taxes are necessary, none of us wants to pay more than our fair share and we want the government entities that use our tax dollars to spend them wisely. Under the current taxing system by design, many funds for the operation of schools come through property taxes. So, education costs are scrutinized carefully.

In discussing our current property tax issues, the Governor has been quote in the July 18th, 2007, Howey Political Report as saying “The unneeded overhead of this antique system (administrative expenses of schools and libraries) drains dollars from our school classrooms…and from the pockets of property taxpayers.” He, as well as some other legislators, is calling on further consolidation of school systems to save on the costs of school administration. This is a bit ironic considering the fact that the Governor has recently signed into law a bill which created 184 new elected officials, adding further expense to taxpayers. These new elected officials will serve on the County Boards of Tax and Capital Projects Review.

The perception that excessive numbers of school administrators are driving up the cost of education is simply not true. The National Center for Educational Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education has provided statistics on this issue that show a very different reality.

The analysis of these statistics by the Educational Research Services shows that Indiana central office administrators (superintendents, assistant superintendents, business managers, etc.) ranked 39th among the 50 states nationally in the percent of personnel employed that fall into that administrative category, less than one percent of all personnel employed. Principals and assistant principals ranked 45th among the 50 states in the same category. Since only 11 states have a lower percentage of employees who work as central office administrators, and only five have a lower rate of building level administrators, where is the “unneeded overhead?”

Beginning in 2005, Lafayette, Tippecanoe, and West Lafayette school corporations studied the advantages and disadvantages of consolidation. According to Lafayette Superintendent and State Board Member Ed Eiler, one area examined was the feasibility of consolidating central office administrative staffing. They found “such savings would result in less than a fraction of one percent of the total operating expense of the combined districts.”

A 2003 study “Small Districts and Economies of Scale,” from the Education Commission of the States concluded that “elimination of school districts is not a clear indication of improved education, cost effectiveness, or better quality. District reorganization should be sought as a last resort.”

It is a sad fact that many Hoosiers are hurting from dramatic increases in local property taxes. This is reason enough to examine any and all potential impacts for relief. It is no reason to, as Morton Marcus recently stated in his column for the Political Report, create a “frenzy to cut, slash, and burn without cautious study or reflection.” Does a cry to combine school corporation services, especially given the nearly imperceptible impact found in the 2003 study and more recently in the Lafayette study, outweigh the local citizens right to have a say in their local educational programs? In the efficiency feeding frenzy, let’s not shortchange students by failing to staff their schools at the level needed to operate most effectively.

The Evansville Courier on July 21st, 2005 reported, “Governor Mitch Daniels said Wednesday that he favors allowing local communities to decide whether to consolidate government functions, and said that as a guiding principle, he favors local control.” Is local control a priority of Hoosiers, or are we willing to simply surrender our authority when a significant challenge impacts our communities?

John Ellis, Executive Director

Indiana Association of Public School Administrators