Fri, Feb. 28

Editorial: Simplistic analysis an eye-opener for consolidation number crunchers

Currently mired down in budget analysis, the group studying the consolidation of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts should slow down, take a deep breath and simplify their work.

The first is the simplistic wisdom shared recently by former Kingman school administrator Betsy Parker. She was a key player in the 2001 consolidation effort that merged the former Kingman Elementary School District with the Mohave Union High School District. The Kingman consolidation brought together seven elementary schools and two high schools that served more than 5,000 students. As a point of comparison, the proposed Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Mingus Union merger would marry five elementary/middle schools with a single high school that collectively serve about 3,500 students.

“It’s an overall streamlining of operations,” Parker said of consolidation. “You no longer need two fleets of school buses and transportation departments. You no longer need two different school lunch programs. You combine warehousing operations and purchasing.

“Two of everything becomes one of everything.”

Or, here is another simple way of looking at it.

School districts – unified or otherwise – that manage multiple schools under a single administration typically do it for considerably less money on a per-campus basis than districts that have only one school.

For example:

The Sedona-Red Rock Unified, Camp Verde Unified and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts all average between $2.2 million and $2.3 million per campus for the 13 schools they collectively administer.

Those costs – for whatever reasons – increase noticeably for local districts that administer their educational offerings on a single campus. Clarkdale-Jerome, with just one campus and 461 K-8 students, has a total budget of just over $5 million. Mingus Union, one campus that serves 1,259 students 9th to 12th grade, has a total budget of $7.4 million.

What’s even more interesting is that these districts with lower per-campus costs typically have as good as – if not better – student-to-teacher ratios than single-school districts.

Sedona-Red Rock averages 18.5 students for every one of its 54 full-time equivalent teachers.

Camp Verde, with 1560 students and 93 teachers, averages about 17 students for each teacher.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek, with more than 2000 students, has a 19-to-1 student-teacher ratio.

As for single-campus districts, which at least locally cost considerably more to operate than districts with multiple schools, the student-teacher ratios are slightly higher. Clarkdale-Jerome averages 20 students for each of its 23 teachers. Mingus Union, with the highest per-campus costs in the Verde Valley, also has the highest student-teacher ratio at 21-to-1.

The moral of the story: School districts with multiple schools are more cost-efficient on a per-campus basis and have better student-teacher ratios than their single-campus counterparts.

There’s something for the consolidation number-crunchers to chew on.

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