Kasich Right to Call for Ohio Schools to Restructure and Share Services

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Ohio Education Matters Executive Director Andrew Benson said Gov. Kasich’s call for restructuring of government to provide a “better product at a lower price for taxpayers” and “more choice, more accountability, more dollars in the classroom instead of in bureaucracy” that will improve schools lines up well with the independent research and studies that were released this year as part of the Ohio Smart Schools initiative, which was undertaken last year at the request of the State of Ohio.

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Andrew Benson

We agree with the governor that the state should create a comprehensive regional support system to encourage and support schools to become more efficient in sharing of services that can put more dollars into the classroom

Governor John Kasich’s call for Ohio schools and districts to restructure and share services could provide the kind of regional support that can lead to greater efficiencies that could result in savings of nearly $1.4 billion over current spending, said Ohio Education Matters today.

In a response to the Governor’s first State of the State Address, Ohio Education Matters, the Cincinnati-based education and policy research subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, said the Kasich administration is right to encourage and support schools and districts to share services in order to gain greater efficiencies. Research and best practices in other states indicate that sharing services – such as administration, transportation, food services, and maintenance – can lead to greater efficiencies than districts providing these services on their own.

“We agree with the governor that the state should create a comprehensive regional support system to encourage and support schools to become more efficient in sharing of services that can put more dollars into the classroom,” said Andrew Benson, executive director of Ohio Education Matters, or OEM.

In his first State of the State address, Governor Kasich called for restructuring of government to provide a “better product at a lower price for taxpayers” and “more choice, more accountability, more dollars in the classroom instead of in bureaucracy” that will improve schools. He called for school districts to share services in order to gain greater efficiencies.

Benson said this lines up well with the independent research and studies that were released this year as part of the Ohio Smart Schools initiative, which was undertaken last year at the request of the State of Ohio. Those studies found that Ohio school districts could save nearly $1.4 billion a year in non-instructional spending if they followed the practices of their most-efficient peers and that the state could help them do so by providing greater regional support for sharing of services.

That total savings would nearly equal the 10 percent cut state leaders previously suggested they needed to make to help balance the next biennial budget. The significance of those savings is that the state may be able to reduce its support for primary and secondary education by as much as 10 percent without forcing districts to make deep cuts in instructional spending.

In its report titled "Towards a New Model of Educational Governance for Ohio: Regional Cooperation to Align Education Services," Ohio Education Matters recommended that the state provide more regional support to schools and districts through comprehensive Regional Service Agencies that would provide economies of scale and opportunities to share services at lower costs.

The state should also expand the existing network of P-16 councils statewide to help communities organize their resources around effective strategies to support children. The report found that just through regional coordination of transporting charter and private school students, school districts in Ohio’s eight metropolitan areas could save as much as $238 million.

The creation of a comprehensive regional support would be one of the tools that the state could provide to schools and districts in order to achieve greater efficiencies in non-instructional spending.

The Ohio Smart Schools initiative called for the state to use efficiency in non-instructional spending as a guide to cutting state aid in a way that rewards districts that are already efficient and encourages districts that are not efficient to improve their productivity. The Ohio Smart Schools initiative also suggested that the state could provide tools for schools and districts to improve productivity, such as creating a more comprehensive system of regional support.
In its Ohio Smart Schools initiative, OEM Matters released the following reports showing how Ohio could do more with less by delivering services more efficiently:

  •     In the report titled Benchmarking Ohio’s School Districts: Identifying districts that get more for their money in non-instructional spending, OEM examined district-level spending in central-office administration, school-building level administration, student transportation, food service, and building maintenance and operations for all Ohio school districts.

The benchmarking study grouped Ohio school districts with similar districts and identified those that were spending less but also meeting minimal quality indicators in each service area. The 5 percent lowest-spending districts in each category meeting quality levels were designated the best-in-class, and there were 135 of them across the state. A comparison was then made to those districts in each group that spent more than the best-in-class, and the study found that Ohio school districts could potentially save the following:

  •     $125.6 million in student transportation
  •     $138 million in food service
  •     $240 million school-building level administration
  •     $248 million in central-office administration
  •     $617.9 million in building maintenance and operations

Across those non-instructional spending areas, school districts could save nearly $1.4 billion, which is a savings of 20 percent across all non-instructional spending in Ohio school districts.

  •     In an additional analysis, titled "Benchmarking Ohio’s School Districts: What kinds of districts seem to be getting more for their money in non-instructional spending?", OEM found that Ohio’s rural public school districts have the potential to save up to 24 percent in non-instructional spending if they were to follow the lead of their most efficient peers, a savings potential that is higher than in urban and suburban districts.
  •     In the report titled "A Check-up on School Employee Health Care: A Proposal to Reduce Costs Without Reducing Quality," Ohio Education Matters recommended that the state create a statewide or regional purchasing pools so that schools and districts can buy their health insurance together and get a lower cost, which would save up to $138 million.

The report also called on districts to encourage employees to enroll in lower-cost health plans, which could provide additional savings of up to 37 percent over most existing health insurance plans.

OEM will be releasing more findings in the coming weeks, including reports on how digital learning can help the state expand its academic offerings while saving money, the impact of philanthropy and volunteerism, and teacher compensation and seniority assignment.

The reports are available at http://www.ohioeducationmatters.org and http://www.ohiosmartschools.org.

Ohio Education Matters, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, is a statewide, public policy research organization that focuses on connecting the dots between great innovations and those in the community who can make change. As a non-partisan entity, Ohio Education Matters acts as a catalyst of education transformation by conducting research, advocacy, engagement and policy development that inspires others to make the system changes needed today to prepare Ohio’s children for the future.

KnowledgeWorks is bringing the future of learning to America’s high schools and creating widespread, lasting change in the communities and states we serve. Our portfolio of high school approaches includes New Tech Network high schools, EdWorks high school redesign, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Early College High Schools.

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