Could bigger be better for Delaware’s school district? A new report suggests one way to streamline government and save money would be to consolidate school districts.
A report from the state auditor’s office says Delaware could save more than $50 million by consolidating the state’s 19 school districts.
The report examines legislation proposed last session that would create four school districts statewide.
State Auditor Tom Wagner calls it a blueprint for potential cost savings in a state facing perhaps years of budget woes.
“Budget cuts are in our future,” Wagner said. “The revenue streams are not going to be there. And we have to be proactive in looking at how we are going to face our needs of the future with limited resources.”
The four districts would consist of a Northern, Central and Southern school district and one consolidated Vo-Tech district. One other part of this plan would move the Appoquinimink District, located mainly in Middletown, to Kent County.
Officials say the consolidation would eliminate 741 positions, including 12 superintendents and 10 assistant superintendents.
Wagner says those positions would not include teachers. But he said if the state does not consolidate and is forced to make future cuts in education, teachers could lose jobs and classroom sizes could increase.
“So it’s the function of do you want to effect on the administrative side or do you want to make the effect on the classroom side?” Wagner said. “I would say that the classroom side is the last place you should make those changes.”
The proposal has its critics.
Lake Forest Superintendent Dan Curry says there are some obvious savings when you go from 19 superintendents to four. But he says a merger would mean a loss of local control, responsibility and accountability.
“The larger an organization spans, what happens is the bureaucracy gets larger and more distant from the people,” he said. “They lose access and they lose the ability to influence.”
Wagner says any changes would require legislation and are at least a couple years away.
“It’s time to reevaluate and look at how we deliver one of the most important services that we provide for the state, that being public education,” Wagner said.