Projo Op-Ed Mentions OSPRI Research on Regionalization

A recent op-ed in The Providence Journal mentions our research on regionalization. The author, a town councilor from Middletown, concedes that we were correct that regionalization does not save money when it comes to school administration, but she still thinks it will in other areas. Here is more from the piece:

Recently the Ocean State Policy Research Institute issued a press release that said that “school regionalization does not save money.” The statement focused on administration, salaries and purchasing, as though economies of scale would be the main fiscal benefit of school regionalization.

Supported by the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics, the institute claimed that in Rhode Island there is little benefit to be gained in these areas. It said: “Using a business model, consolidation of services makes sense . . . . But when government mandates such actions and higher levels of governance are created, accountability suffers and costs rise.”

Then the study attacked administrative and teacher salaries, as though only by reducing expenditures for supervision and instruction could regionalization result in cost reduction.

I totally agree with the institute that regionalization as a process by itself will not save money. Having served as an administrator in three regional school districts, I can say that there is really only one way to save the kind of money that makes the concept worthwhile — closing buildings and consolidating student bodies. …

So what is the point of regionalization if not to save money? The point is to look for where savings will make a difference, such as closing buildings. Maintenance and utility costs are huge. Common sense says that closing a school building will make a difference of thousands of dollars without affecting the quality of education and perhaps, if it is done with the educational program in mind, there could even be a better program for students.

Well, we’ve done some more digging around and found that Rhode Island is one of cheapest in the nation for capital expenditures and building maintenance. We’ll be addressing this latest argument for regionalization in further detail soon.

P.S.In the article, the author calls for regionalization among the three towns on Aquidneck Island: Newport, Middletown, Little Compton, and Portsmouth. We also hear that there is a movement to regionalize around Burrillville. Stay tuned for more. …

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