Consolidation Conundrums Continue…
As the Reorganization Planning Committees (RPC’s) get back to work developing plans for the creation of Regional School Units (RSU’s), they will have to deal with latest wrinkle in the consolidation debacle, which is the advent of so-called Alternative Organizational Structures (AOS’s).
Readers will recall that the legislature passed a bill this past session, (which the governor promptly vetoed) allowing for the creation of super-sized school unions, in place of the RSU’s proscribed in the original law. RSU’s are modeled on existing School Administrative Districts. Made up of several towns, they share a common school system and school administration and are governed by a single school board. School Unions, by contrast, share certain administrative functions, but remain as independent municipal school systems, each with their own school board. The legislature approved a plan to allow a school union-type model as an option for consolidating districts, but the governor’s veto sent them back to the drawing board.
What emerged was a provision to allow the Commissioner to approve an “alternative organizational structure,” as long as she feels it will “satisfy the purposes of the school reorganization law.” Such a structure, the law says, must result in:
(a) Consolidation of system administration;
(b) Consolidation of special education administration, transportation administration and administration of business functions including accounting, reporting, payroll, financial management, purchasing insurance and auditing;
(c) Adoption of a core curriculum and procedures for standardized testing and assessment aligned with the system of learning results established in Title 20-A, section 6209; and
(d) Adoption of consistent school policies and school calendars and a plan for consistent collective bargaining agreements.
This provision has received mixed reviews from the school community. The group from MDI, which was the primary force behind the push for a school union option, has said that given the situation, the AOS provision represents a workable option. Others have claimed that the new bill contains little in the way of helpful changes, and that serious obstacles remain, including the requirement that merging districts create some kind of cost-sharing formula.
The most serious obstacle of all, which is the state’s instance on a one-size-fits-all solution that only it can approve, was made apparent yet again in the following statement from Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin, which appeared in a recent Bangor Daily News article, and which touched in whether or not MDI would get a “waiver” to be approved as an AOS:
“The reality is that MDI, if they work at it, will get a waiver, but not a waiver for what they have now,” he said. “What MDI has now is pretty close to what we want. So with a little bit of work MDI can operate as a single system. Under the law the state will write a single check to a single system and reporting will be done for the entire unit. They will be treated like a single entity and they will have to act like a single entity.””
Ah yes, all must bend and stoop before the state, which knows better than anyone how school should be run. “They are close to what WE want,” he says. The condescending arrogance of these people is astonishing.
So, the long march toward district consolidation continues. Off in the hills, though one can sometimes still make out the sound of repeal petitions still being signed. Help may be on the way…