State School Consolidation Plan Comes Under Fire

Eaton County ISD official says state plan will cost ISD money

State school superintendent Michael Flanagan says he is confident his plan to consolidate school services could save districts millions of dollars.

However, if Eaton County's Intermediate School District has to follow Flanagan’s blueprint, it would end up costing as much as $30,000 more per employee, according to Eaton County ISD officials.

Under Flanagan’s plan, intermediate school districts would be required to provide services like transportation, food service, curriculum development, administrative and other functions for local school districts in the entire county.

In a letter, Flanagan wrote: “For ISDs to accommodate this financially, local school districts would be required to purchase the transitioned services from the ISDs at-cost.”

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However, the Eaton Regional Education Service Agency (Eaton County's ISD) found it was cheaper to have its employees work for local school districts because of less expensive union contracts at the local level, said Christine Beardsley, superintendent of ERESA.

In effect, ERESA says it can save costs if its employees work for individual school districts, not the Intermediate School District. ERESA recently laid off 24 employees — mostly paraprofessionals — who would be “insourced” to Grand Ledge Public Schools, effective Aug. 16. Former ERESA employees can apply for jobs at Grand Ledge and receive preferential treatment, Beardsley said in an email.

Grand Ledge projects it can save $30,000 per position moved from ERESA to Grand Ledge, she said.

“This action is based entirely on financial efficiency,” Beardsley said.

Under Flanagan’s plan, the ISD wouldn’t be able to realize these savings because it would need the employees to provide the services for the local districts.

Beardsley does support Flanagan’s plan.

“It really just depends on who can provide the same high-quality services at a more cost-effective rate,” she said.

Audrey Spalding, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said research and recent events show that mandatory consolidation is likely to accomplish little.

“Districts are not in deficit because they are too small or too large — they are in deficit because officials have made poor management decisions,” Spalding said. “If officials want to see meaningful change in our public education system, they need to consider meaningful reform. Consolidation isn't it.”

Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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See also:

School Consolidation Won't Save Much


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