Do We Really Need 200 School Districts?
 
Stories from School Blogger Beth Maloney recently wrote the article The Problem with Teacher Pay in Arizona and One Possible Solution .  This interesting piece proposes that a statewide salary schedule will equalize pay for teachers while considering qualifications and experience. It is also a way to secure teacher retention.  I am in agreement with Maloney that this is something worth serious consideration.  
Her article made me think about my early years as a teacher. I came into this field as a second career.  I was advised to shop around before signing a contract because a neighboring district could pay a good deal more or less than the one I just interviewed with.  I did not understand this.  I grew up on the east coast and attended the Prince George's County School District. Although my schools were spaced far apart, they were all housed under the same framework.  
I was shocked to learn that here in AZ, there are districts across the street from each other. In addition to this, each district had its own pay schedule and administrative staff from Superintendent on down. I remember thinking how wasteful this seemed. How different could these families, students, teachers, and communities be to justify this type of cost? Especially when it comes to administration.
Based on the answers I received and my research, I learned that that having multiple districts allow for local control which supports autonomy. As a teacher, I fully understand that. Yet, when funding is a major contributor to Arizona's current education crisis, I wonder if this level of independence is something that we can afford.  How much of our education budget is actually hitting the classroom?  
According to the report on Arizona's school district spending for Fiscal Year 2016 , Arizona spends 53.5% of our education budget on instruction. This is 7.3% less than the national average.  At 10.4%, we are below the national average for administrative spending by .5%.  In addition to this, we spend more on everything else in the budget (plant operations, food services, transportation, student support, and instruction support). These areas have a direct impact on the classroom but are not linked under instruction.  Grouping student and instructional support with instruction would boost our cost per student to 67.4%, but still leaves us behind the national average by 3.8%.  
These numbers make me wonder if there is still room to crunch down the administrative overhead of our education system.  Regardless of the national average, decreasing the number of districts would: 
•	decrease the administrative budget
•	free up funds for direct instruction costs
•	allow resources to be shared without replication 
•	support uninterrupted education and services to mobile families 
•	provide continuity to teachers transitioning to other schools across the state
•	support retention of teachers that need to secure employment due to a change in location
When coupled with a statewide salary schedule, this unification and commonality across the state would make an even stronger impact on education.
I am proud of the recent teacher movements that are happening across the nation. I also support our #REDFORED movement here in  Arizona. In addition to self-advocacy, it is important to take fiscal responsibility and be creative with resources currently available. Especially when asking for more can easily equate to an increase in taxes.  So, again I ask if it is in our best interest to continue to fund the 200+ school districts here in Arizona or should we find a way to collaborate?
Additional resources to chew on:
Can Arizona Afford 217 School Districts?
Education Spending Per Student by State
Total School Districts, Student Enrollment by State and Metro Area
photo credit: wuestenigelWoman's finger pointing at Bucharest City Map via photopin (license)

Do We Really Need 200 School Districts?

Yolanda Wheelington Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership, Uncategorized

SHARE THIS STORY: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+

Stories from School Blogger Beth Maloney recently wrote the article The Problem with Teacher Pay in Arizona and One Possible Solution .  This interesting piece proposes that a statewide salary schedule will equalize pay for teachers while considering qualifications and experience. It is also a way to secure teacher retention.  I am in agreement with Maloney that this is something worth serious consideration.

Her article made me think about my early years as a teacher. I came into this field as a second career.  I was advised to shop around before signing a contract because a neighboring district could pay a good deal more or less than the one I just interviewed with.  I did not understand this.  I grew up on the east coast and attended the Prince George’s County School District. Although my schools were spaced far apart, they were all housed under the same framework.

I was shocked to learn that here in AZ, there are districts across the street from each other. In addition to this, each district had its own pay schedule and administrative staff from Superintendent on down. I remember thinking how wasteful this seemed. How different could these families, students, teachers, and communities be to justify this type of cost? Especially when it comes to administration.

Based on the answers I received and my research, I learned that that having multiple districts allow for local control which supports autonomy. As a teacher, I fully understand that. Yet, when funding is a major contributor to Arizona’s current education crisis, I wonder if this level of independence is something that we can afford.  How much of our education budget is actually hitting the classroom?

According to the report on Arizona’s school district spending for Fiscal Year 2016 , Arizona spends 53.5% of our education budget on instruction. This is 7.3% less than the national average.  At 10.4%, we are below the national average for administrative spending by .5%.  In addition to this, we spend more on everything else in the budget (plant operations, food services, transportation, student support, and instruction support). These areas have a direct impact on the classroom but are not linked under instruction.  Grouping student and instructional support with instruction would boost our cost per student to 67.4%, but still leaves us behind the national average by 3.8%.

These numbers make me wonder if there is still room to crunch down the administrative overhead of our education system.  Regardless of the national average, decreasing the number of districts would:

  • decrease the administrative budget
  • free up funds for direct instruction costs
  • allow resources to be shared without replication
  • support uninterrupted education and services to mobile families
  • provide continuity to teachers transitioning to other schools across the state
  • support retention of teachers that need to secure employment due to a change in location

When coupled with a statewide salary schedule, this unification and commonality across the state would make an even stronger impact on education.

I am proud of the recent teacher movements that are happening across the nation. I also support our #REDFORED movement here in  Arizona. In addition to self-advocacy, it is important to take fiscal responsibility and be creative with resources currently available. Especially when asking for more can easily equate to an increase in taxes.  So, again I ask if it is in our best interest to continue to fund the 200+ school districts here in Arizona or should we find a way to collaborate?

Additional resources to chew on:

Can Arizona Afford 217 School Districts?

Education Spending Per Student by State

Total School Districts, Student Enrollment by State and Metro Area

photo credit: wuestenigel<ahref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/33700899931″>Woman’s finger pointing at Bucharest City Map</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

 

Yolanda Wheelington

Phoenix, Arizona

Yolanda has taught for the past 7 years in the Phoenix Elementary School District. Her passion for developing and supporting the human potential is evident in the cross-curricular work done her classroom. She is a member of the Association Montessori International and is a RODEL Scholar. Yolanda earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology from The Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), a Master’s in Social Work and a Master’s in Education (Special Education) from Arizona State University, and a diploma in Lower Elementary Education for ages 6-12 from the Montessori Institute of North Texas.

» Yolanda's Stories
» Contact Yolanda

  • Susan Collins

    Yolanda, You make excellent points about the number of districts and the amount of money spent on administrative/non-instructional costs. I am in a district that has become a “unified” district. This has consolidated expenses without relinquishing local control. Also, coming from a state that had a state minimum salary schedule, I completely see the benefits of having one. I knew that no matter where I went in that state as long as my years of service were verifiable I was guaranteed a minimum salary based on my education and years of experience. The local districts could supplement the state salary schedule, but the state funded the minimum. It can be particularly helpful with rural areas and places that do not have a strong tax base. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Yolanda Wheelington

      Thank you for sharing your insight.

  • Donnie Lee

    I was employed by a district in West Phoenix the last few years. After my first year, I obtained my Master’s Degree. Immediately, after that, if someone was hired in my district with my same credentials, they would have made nearly $3,000 more than me. If I would’ve quit and returned to my district, I would be able to get that bump but not if I stayed. District pay scales are strange in that the only way many teachers can receive a pay increase is by quitting and going to another district.

    • Yolanda Wheelington

      Thank you for sharing your insight. If AZ ever decided to move to state wide pay scales, this type of situation would need to be addressed so that it does not create unintended consequences such as quitting to move forward.

  • Beth Maloney

    Yolanda, this is an idea I’ve heard tossed around that I find very intriguing. Thanks for all the research to chew on. You make some very interesting points. Thanks for the shout out for my piece, too!

    • Yolanda Wheelington

      Thanks!

  • Leah Clark

    Hi Yolanda,
    I appreciate your opinion; however, I worked in the Clark County School District for more than two years. This district is the 5th largest and fastest growing district in the country. When I moved back to Phoenix last year, I was thrilled to work for a small union district where I feel truly supported. In a large district, high performing schools (as the one I taught at) rarely receive resources because the lowest performing schools receive the attention and thus money. The motto is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But my students often were shortchanged of the necessary resources such as technology they needed. We were lucky to have parents who were very involved and often sponsored projects to help support the school. In my new smaller district, I am not just a number and my kids are not ignored. Due to the smaller sized district, all of our resources directly support the teachers and students’ needs.