Legislature's Gift of $107 Million to ADE for 32 New Employees
$107 Million Would Pay for 1,070 Superintendents
Proponents of administrative consolidation supposedly support it in order to save money. In 2003, the combined salary of every superintendent in Arkansas was $23 million. These same administrative consolidation proponents in 2003, gave $107 million supplement to the Arkansas Dept. of Education in Act 98 (SB91) to add up to 32 new government employees and for other expenses. This Act 98 was passed in the same session in which they spent the entire session getting consolidation laws passed.
This gift to the ADE would have paid 1,070 superintendents for a year at $100,000 a year. At least 30 campuses plus have been closed by that so-called "administrative consolidation" in Act 60 of 2003 special session. Seven new positions have also now been created in the Facilities Division alone. Ohio's Facilities Dept. started with 1 employee and expanded to 50. Reducing superintendents and increasing state government employees, as well as their salaries, seems to be the trend. So where are the savings?
Non-teaching government positions in Arkansas grew at a rate of 10 percent from 1997 to 2004 while salaries for those government positions increased 74.1 percent. And we focus on superintendent salaries when there has already been a decrease in the number of superintendents in the last couple of years!
More and more students are riding the bus 3 ½ to 4 hours a day because the state is saving all that money through consolidation and spending it on government employees! We disrupted entire communities and schools, making teachers drive long distances to their new schools while we might have saved approximately $3 million by eliminating approximately 30 superintendents; now we have just allocated $298 million for facilities. Talk about swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat! Where is our common sense? I hope citizens will remember this information when countywide school districts [administrative consolidation] are promoted again.
Bob Hester, American Family Assoc. 870-932-5065 firstname.lastname@example.org
The State School Board just allowed the closure of Elaine (March 13, 06) 7th - 12th campus, adding 28 additional miles to these students' bus rides, a total of 71 miles one way. Some students and families are already arising at 5:30 so the children can catch the bus at 6:20 a.m. Parents testified the children and parents will now have to arise at 5:00 or even 4:45 a.m. The students already arrive home at 6:00-6:30 pm after school tutoring programs (mandated by the state) and now will have to travel 28 additional miles. The parents testified to this on oath, and no one from the two districts disputed it. There was even talk of having to close the elementary schools and putting even kindergarten students on the bus this long.
There was also testimony that secretaries, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, custodians, and bus drivers that are 50 years old or older, and have worked at Elaine for decades, will be out of a job and will not even be able to afford health care. Even if there were savings to the state through consolidation (which I still contend there is not), the savings would come on the backs of poor people in Arkansas who lose their jobs, have to drive farther to other schools to teach for other school related jobs, or dirve longer distances to school activities. With the increase of gas prices, that is quite a burden - not to mention the time involved. I wonder just how many of those high school students will drop out rather than ride the bus for that length of time and distance especially so since they will not be able to afford to participate in extracurricular activities.
There is no reason to have to lay these inhuman burdens on the backs of families in this age of technology and distance learning. Arkansas is a RURAL state. It cannot be molded into the same mold as other states.