Educational Editorial: The 65 percent rule

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - House Bill 1416 requires each local school board to allocate 65 percent of its operating budget to instructional spending.

While honorable in spirit, it probably is not practice…it would make a nice bumper sticker.

School divisions are labor intensive. In most cases, 80 percent of the budget is in the state classification of instruction…95 percent of this expenditure is people.

This legislation is probably proposed on the assumption that school divisions are bloated with administrators.  While some may be, the 65 percent rule will not solve the problem of inflated bureaucracies…it will only cause them to play analytical games.

I understand cutting…400 positions in one year in Henrico, 48 percent of the agency as state superintendent, $1.2 million from the central office in Chesterfield and 22 percent in the first year as a University Dean.

I can recall one board member who would faithfully push, no matter how many positions I had cut, to just eliminate a few more administrators. One night I responded that if I floated the entire central office down the James River I could not increase teachers' salaries by 1 percent...after a pause, he responded, "well, it would be a good start."

Let me describe a school division…it is growing and far flung…you will have lower teacher salaries purely because the work force is in average younger…you will have more debt because you are building schools…and your transportation costs will be higher because of distances traveled…unless we are going to remove debt, utilities, and gas and hold schools in a meadow, you have created an unlikely comparison…if you want to cap administrative costs, do it…but not on a false assumption.

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