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Adventures in Efficiency

October 19, 2012

Legislators this week held several interim studies related to making public education more efficient. Oklahoma Capitol Source has a good summary from Tuesday’s meetings, and the Tulsa World has a good summary from Wednesday.

The first study looked at the effects of class size restrictions, eventually evolving into a discussion of deregulation. After an initial focus on the exemption to class size laws in districts with high amounts of bond debt, they then began to question the extent to which this should be a matter of local control.

The second study – on digital learning – seemed to meander between topics. There was a discussion of electronic textbooks. Rep. Nelson wanted to know how technology staff were coded. Probably the most important discussion was about the varying degrees of infrastructure for technology in districts throughout the state. In some rural areas, it’s not even a concern about money. It’s about access to the bandwidth itself.

Wednesday’s study focused on created administrative efficiencies and centered on this report from the Office of Accountability. An estimate of cost savings that could be achieved through consolidation, its preparers were careful not to promise that those figures were a sure thing. The truth is that a district with 1,000 students and six schools will have more expenses not directly related to instruction than a district with 1,000 and three schools. I respect the fact that the Office of Accountability study intends to keep schools open; however, the cost of keeping the building open is the biggest reason that the cost savings are unlikely to materialize.

We’ve heard in the last few months that Governor Fallin is for consolidation. And that Superintendent Barresi is against it. We’ve also heard a cacophony from Republican legislators who can’t decide whether they’re going to increase the budget for public schools. There’s so much noise about efficiency right now, it’s really hard to predict what form this momentum will take.

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