The school consolidation plan insults hard-working superintendents.

It looks as if Gov. John Baldacci is backtracking on his regional school consolidation plan, at least regarding teachers. He has decided he will not cut 650 teaching jobs, and not increase class size by one student per teacher.

He says this would have only saved $24 million over three years, anyway. Let’s examine these numbers.

Gov. Baldacci passed a law making the starting salary for a teacher $27,900. For 650 teachers, that would be more than $18 million per year for salaries alone. Benefits, which include health insurance, dental insurance, workers compensation, unemployment and Medicare – the bare minimum – could easily be $12,000 per teacher. That is another $7.8 million.

By my calculations, that comes to $26.835 million in one year, savings which were to go to high school seniors for college tuition aid. Sorry, kids.

While the governor is underestimating savings on teachers, he is grossly overexaggerating savings on superintendents. He claims his plan will save $250 million. If he plans to go from 157 administrative units down to 26, that would only be 131 superintendents. School unions are administrative districts that share a superintendent, so it may be less that 131, but let’s give the governor the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s again use an average salary for superintendents of $90,000 and benefits of $12,000. This calculates into $13.362 million, so why backtrack on teachers and not superintendents? We all love teachers, but superintendents? He has even seemed to declare superintendents and their staff to be incompetent.

Consider the implications for local control. In towns where there is no high school, parents can choose to send their children to places like Hebron Academy, and the towns pay the tuition. Under the governor’s plan, these students will have to attend any one of the numerous high schools in the new regional mega-district.

If parents want to continue to send their children to places like Hebron, they will have to pay the tuition themselves. There have been tuition class action lawsuits from parents in towns that don’t have high schools.

What will the Local Schools, Regional Solutions plan bring?

Then what is next in the governor’s plan for regionalization? Consolidate town offices? How far will one have to drive to re-register your vehicle, and how long will be the wait? Will residents have any say, or will this be just like the school plan – part of his budget proposal, so the good people of Maine have no input?

State statute dicates that superintendents receive their state subsidy numbers by Feb. 1. It’s now March, and we still don’t have them. I recommend the governor look in Augusta first, before deciding which group of people he chooses to target next, and declare as incompetent.

Stacie Everett has worked as a business manager/finance director for Maine schools for more than nine years. She is the business manager of the Jay School Department and lives in Turner.


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