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UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Gov. Daniels shares ideas on how schools can save and not hurt classroom instruction

Thursday, February 11, 2010

(Photo)
Gov. Mitch Daniels talked with editors Thursday morning in Brazil.
(Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
Gov. Mitch Daniels sat down Thursday morning for a face-to-face interview with representatives of Rust Communication's three Indiana newspapers -- the Greene County Daily World, Brazil Times and Greencastle Banner-Graphic. This is the first of a two-part series based on the comments from the governor.

BRAZIL -- Gov. Mitch Daniels knows very well that sticking to a budget in a recession is never easy.

It becomes tougher when state revenue forecasts fall short of what the experts predicted.

Greene County school districts are anticipated to lose tens of thousands of dollars because of caps on property tax bills. That's on top of the 2.7 percent cuts in state funding support.

There is no denying that Daniels' announced cuts in state spending are putting an extra blow on local school boards, but the actions taken, he contends, are necessary to prevent a deficit -- without raising taxes.

On Thursday, the governor suggested that administrators would be wise to look over the Department of Education's checklist on how school corporations can save money without hurting classroom instruction.

"The list is some things that school corporations can do before they even think of reducing teaching staffs," Daniels pointed out. "It has to do with reducing overhead, possibly lowering costs by outsourcing some things."

Gov. Daniels announced that cutting education funding is necessary given dim economic forecasts indicating significant revenue shortfalls.

State tax collections for the first five months of the fiscal year already are $475 million below a May forecast, which lawmakers used in crafting the current budget. A new forecast issued in December predicted the state will take in $1.8 billion less through July 2011 than previously projected.

He suggested that public school teachers could forego a raise in an effort to help their school districts save money.

Click here to hear Gov. Daniels talk about the budget crunch and suggest things local school districts can do to help:

"The average teacher (in Indiana) makes about $49,000. The average Hoosier makes about $39,000 ... that income has went down in the last year. The average teacher is going up 4.4 percent," the governor said. "I'm not saying that (eliminating a raise) is the best thing that can be done. I am just saying it's one of those things that can be done if people have really done everything else they know how to do."

Daniels believes schools can collectively cut at least $300 million from state spending without laying off teachers.

"After we had done everything else, we had to back up and cut it (K-12 funding), which I didn't like doing, but it's half the budget. We squeezed everything else," Daniels said. "So I'm sympathetic, but when you cut a lot of the state departments 20 percent, 2.7 percent (from K-12 education) doesn't seem too much to ask.

"Anyone who complains about that should be immediately asked, 'Which tax do you want to increase?' We have used all of the reserves that the state had."

When he was asked if more cuts might be coming, Daniels quickly replied, "I hope not."

Daniels said local school districts should look closely at the Citizen's Checklist of recommendations to reduce school costs as suggested by the State Board of Education.

Click on the following link to read the entire Citizen's Checklist:

http://www.doe.in.gov/news/2010/01-Janua...

Among other options on the list:

* Consider having school districts join state employee health plans that might cost less.

* Suspend hiring.

* Reduce the number of administrators.

* Renegotiate purchase agreements to buy in bulk.

* Evaluate the benefits of consolidating districts.

* Allow transportation and building funds paid through property taxes to be transferred to classroom operating funds.

* Allow school districts to raise local income taxes.

"We've still got way too much tied up in the cost of administration and things like that," Daniels said in pointing out that Greene County with five school districts is a prime example of how overhead is hurting.

"We've got school districts that are smaller than a lot of our elementary schools," the governor said.

Greene County's five superintendents have salaries that average more than $90,000 a year for a combined enrollment of 5,519 students.

By cutting it to a single superintendent for the entire county, a savings could be realized, Daniels said.

(Photo)
Gov. Daniels points to a graph that shows state reserves dropping as revenue forecasts are lagging.
(Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
"Just on that money alone you could hire a couple more school teachers," he stressed. "In administration, it (the money) is not going to the instructional benefit of the kids. By the way, we are not getting results for the money. Everybody is familiar with the fact that the costs are going up, up and up over the last 20 years. I just wish we had a line (on the graph) of test scores and graduation rates that were also going up."

The second-term governor said schools should take note of what local governments in counties, cities and towns are doing.

"Local governments have been sharpening their pencils and doing some of these things to save money," he stated. "I hope (school) people will look at this (budget crunch) as an opportunity to innovate and take the opportunity to deliver a better product with more teaching for the dollars that are being spent. We'll (the state) supply more dollars the first chance we get."

Daniels said there is a slow-moving trend by school districts to combine.

(Photo)
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
(Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
"I'd love for them to say, 'OK let's do what is best for the kids.' If you believe in smaller schools like I do, overhead is the enemy of smaller schools. Every dollar that is spent unnecessarily on administration and support services is a dollar that is not available for a teacher to keep the classroom size manageable," he said.

Daniels said the decisions to merge the administration and not the actual schools should be done by local leadership, rather than by order of the legislature.

"It's all in the interest of the children. Here is the thing. The most tragic thing to me is not that money is being wasted. It is the fact that the children are being cheated. Invariably, the small school districts have fewer advanced placement classes, fewer foreign languages, fewer math classes, fewer science classes, things that are really going to make a major difference," Daniels said. "If there is anything good about a recession maybe it makes schools get serious about some common sense measures that would really help what matters in the classroom."


Comments
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I wonder, have any of the politicians in higher positions ever considered NOT accepting the paycheck allotted to them? That would help to cut spending tremendously. I do believe Mitch Daniels had money prior to being governor, if he were truly looking out for the best interest of us residents, why not just forfeit your pay? It would help employ some of those that are losing their jobs, etc.

-- Posted by Bugaboosnana on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 4:42 PM

Well, Mitch isn't one of my favorite people...

But, he's 100% accurate about consolidating districts - 1 superintendent is more than capable of administering all of Greene County schools and even if additional support staff must be hired that comes at a cost of much, MUCH less than $90,000 per year (on average, so 1/2 are making more than that!).

That provides the benefit of keeping more teachers, but also allows keeping all Greene county schools on a single schedule (all having the same winter breaks, spring breaks, etc), it also will reduce the number of school boards and associated costs, it also provides the benefit of having teachers teach part time in more than 1 school, so teacher's that aren't needed full time (for example Bloomfields part time band instructor) could hold full time jobs, but teach part time at 2 of the schools - that could even lead to more course options if it would be possible for a teacher to only teach a couple periods in multiple schools in the district...

The state study that was done also provide statistics (and I do admit that statistics can be skewed) that show that students from larger districts out perform those from smaller districts...

Could someone point out the negatives?

-- Posted by RB on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 5:35 PM

This is so sad, I cannot believe our governor has gone this far. I am all for cutting taxes, but what is the true cost? Is the money we all save worth the lack of quality education for our youth, our future. I am sure the state could find other things to cut back on so education could have a fighting chance. Mr. Daniels makes a nice sum of money and lets not forget all of the lovely perks that comes along with being a governor. Or lets look at this, according to stateline.org, a NCAA division 1 school (like IU, a state supported school) pays their football coaches about 900,000 dollars a year. Now according to Mr. Daniels the average salary for a superintendent is 90,000 dollars. So one football coach gets the pay almost equivalent to ten school superintendents. Now I know my fair share of economics and in my opinion the costs and benefits in this situation just do not exactly get anywhere close to being equal. I do also understand that there are different funds allocated to different areas throughout the state budget and throughout education, but those amounts and their areas can always be changed. That is up to the state legislature, so maybe we can reallocate them. I hate to say that but it is true. Maybe the thought of them not having a job after the next election might help them see things a little bit more clearly, just as those teachers that have lost could be future jobs to these budget cuts. Teachers are already making much less than they deserve just like many other extremely important members of our society like social workers, policemen, and firefighters. Now to deny them a raise (which is to cover the rise in the cost of living) is just ridiculous and just a plain slap in the face to all educators. Also to say that larger schools offer better opportunities for children is a big stretch. Yes a more diverse curriculum would be wonderful! I would have loved to have been able to take another English or Ag class. However, I believe that the smaller class sizes and individual attention I received by attending a smaller school far out weighs what I would have probably gained in the previous mentioned classes. Now that is all I have to say for now, so I better get back to work. I am currently studying and hoping to be a future educator for the state of Indiana, but maybe I should rethink that now because even though money never was a factor in my decision in choosing a career, the future is not looking to bright for me, or for the students for that fact.

-- Posted by sycamorehistorian on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 6:57 PM

See he has a plan. I'm tired of all these liberals complaining about Mitch's policies. Indiana is one of the few states that has a good economy.

-- Posted by DonCon on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 7:11 PM

One can hardly compare the salary of a football coach from a tuition based university with a 100% public funded public school. There lies the benefits of competition.

I agree that cutting the number of administrators would provide $300-400,000 more doallars to Greene county schools. That would allow at least eight to ten teachers to be hird to reduce class size or to allow the annual pay raises to occur.

Mitch is correct that anyone who complains about cuts has a hard time coming up with a new tax to propose.

I would like to demand drug testing for all recipients of Indiana Medicaid. If you are tested posistive for illegal drugs or tobaco, then you should not receive medical benefits. First strike=counseling and physical exam to start re-hab. Second strike= loss of benefits for individual, third strike=loss of benefits for family. Also, a reasonable co-pay should be instituted for those receiving state aid so they will not run to the emergeency room for a common cold.

It's time for accountability and for adults to start leading by example for students.

-- Posted by cow rancher on Thu, Feb 11, 2010, at 10:03 PM

If educators cared about what was best for kids??? Seriously, nice slap in the face! Schools will take their cuts and keep working their tails off to educate kids...sure schools would love the 2.7%...but schools will get by.

I'm not exactly sure where the $300,000-$400,000 savings by cutting administrators would come...people may need to stop drinking the Governor's kool-aid.

The Governor is misinformed and clueless to assume that one person could do that job...he also fails to mention that combining school districts would take control away from local communities. He is good about that. Appeal to your wallet, then leave at the part where you will pay for it later.

Outsourcing parts of the school budget may save money, but you get what you pay for. Less money spent on cafeteria staff...lower quality and lesser quantity meals for a cheaper price. Outsource bus drivers and custodians...lose the home town feel and familiarity that those individuals provide. Sure there a places to cut, but what is the real price...and we are talking more than just money.

Back to the administration gig...the Governor is being a bit simplistic in his analysis. Sure he has a couple statistics and some guesses of posssible savings, but as usual he misses on more than he hits. First, Bigger school size= higher salary for the super. I'm guessing in the $150,000 range, but I'd have to see similar size schools that cover that large of an area. Second, if they could find a super to do the job...he/she would need assistants(note that is plural). Probably an assistant that makes in the $80,000-90,000 range and at least another to handle transportation(which would be a nightmare)that might make $55,000+ a year. Might need at least one extra secretary in the office as well. Seems the Governor is assuming(you know what they say about assuming) that you could just eliminate 4 of the 5 supers and things would run smoothly. I wonder if we eliminated the position of Governor....he can't do that much??? Seriously, he is making a lot of leaps with his statements, but fails to take in account the big picture.

The combining of school districts has a lot of indirect consequences. Snow days...although many schools have them at the same times...Eastern is more likely to miss more days with the types of rural roads they have within their district. The loss of local school boards...5 school districts would most likely have one rep. from the existing schools districts and a couple at large folks. ISTEP is a school ditrict wide deal. Not sure how they would deal with some schools passing, while others don't. Would there be extra busing costs. Just seems like it is not a really well thought out plan...too many questions.

Governor Daniels is a wonderful politician...he has passed the buck to schools just like he passed the buck to small communities and other state jobs.

-- Posted by GCC on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 12:40 AM

GCC- it looks like you have consumed more Kool-aid than anyone. Don't worry, your government will bail you out.

You said, " I'm guessing in the $150,000 range, but I'd have to see similar size schools that cover that large of an area. Second, if they could find a super to do the job...he/she would need assistants(note that is plural). Probably an assistant that makes in the $80,000-90,000 range and at least another to handle transportation(which would be a nightmare)that might make $55,000+ a year. Might need at least one extra secretary in the office as well."

Then you follow that statement up with the "Govorner is assuming". It sounds like you are assuming more than he is.

Also, he is a terrible politician but an excellent business man. Thank God we have a fiscally responsible person in the office now during a jobs recession. Decreased jobs= decreased income taxes.

Let's continue to keep the big spending liberals out of office before Indiana joins the ranks of California, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

I think we can agree to disagree that no matter what the approach, our children need the best education possible. Let's start at home with excellent parenting!

-- Posted by cow rancher on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 8:28 AM

When it comes to school cuts. We all get pretty touchy. The fact is that school admin has put alot of this stress on our county system. Our school systems have worked fine for many many years. Until we started putting poor admin in charge. I don't know that much about the school systems in the west side of the county. But in the eastern district. They have 1 superintendant. With an assistant sup. Why the heck does he need an assistant. I don't know exactly how much she makes. However, I'm sure it's more than the average teaching salary. Secondly, they have way to much power. Superintendants are given complete control of funds to do with whatever they please. Spending money that is supposed to be designated for certain departments and putting it into something else. It's up to our school boards and us as citizens to apply pressure on these poor administrations to get things straightened out. The last thing we need to do is cut teachers. As much as I hate to agree with governor Daniels. He is right that the admin needs some cuts. Not sure I'm for consolidation. However, it has positives. Hopefully, we can get these issues resolved.

-- Posted by ETHANT on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 8:40 AM

Monroe county community school system has 1 superintendent, for how many schools? That is for multiple elementaries, multiple junior highs, multiple high schools...

1 Greene County superintendent would need assistants...plural???? For what??? We have principals in each school, both elementary and junior/senior high that are there to manage the day to day operations of the schools. The superientendents only job is to manage district wide issues. Why is it that 1 person can not do that job??? Sure some additional support staff, ie secretaries, office administration, people to do paperwork, might be required, but they work for much less than $90,000 per year...

4 superintendents * 90,000 = $360,000 savings per year that can be put towards costs that DIRECTLY benefit students. More teachers, more computers, better science equipment, more funds for the libraries, etc, etc, etc...

I agree that teachers anticipating raises shouldn't have to give them up and I also agree that having higher salaries in education will convince more people to consider the field, however I am not sure I agree with the statement that teachers are underpaid and my sister is an elementary teacher. They make an average of $50,000/year and only work 9 months of the year - get a week vacation during the spring, 2 weeks over the winter, don't have to work weekends, get off most federal holidays, and usually don't have to drive through bad weather to get to work. Now the argument against that is that teachers work long hours and take work home to grade at nights, but many professionals take work home too and they do so working 5+ days per week, only get 2-3 weeks of vacation per year, and are expected to drive through 5 inches of snow to get to their jobs. I'm tempted to work backwards to determine the hourly rate that results.

So, I'm curious, for those that believe teachers are underpaid, if $50,000/year isn't acceptible (which is more than an adequate salary for Greene County) what should teachers be earning?

-- Posted by RB on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 9:05 AM

Good parenting would cure a lot of problems in education and beyond. That I would agree on.

As for kool-aid, I'm not going to blindly believe Gov. Daniels. I wasn't born yesterday, and realize that with every tough decision there are direct and indirect consequences. I don't think the Governor made any attempt to address those. Therefore, it is at the very least too vague.

Generally, deflecting responsibility and only providing a small amount of information is apolitically savvy move. You are naive to think he is a poor politician.

I'm not saying administrative cuts should be off the table, but it doesn't take much insight to realize the Governor is simplifying the effects of combining districts and cutting administrators.

Most teachers will tell you a good administrator is worth the weight in gold...they allow teachers to teach.

-- Posted by GCC on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 9:13 AM

School consolidation would help, but that probably won't happen. I think a West (Linton/Shakamak) & Central (WRV/Bloomfield) to join Eastern Greene would work -- 3 schools under a County School administration.

Seems to work in Monroe, Vigo, and other counties with much larger populations. But that would involve some change and creativity and this is Greene County....

-- Posted by BloomburgBanter on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 10:15 AM

Anyone,

If you haven't been a superintendent, how can you begin to believe that you know what a superintendent does or how difficult their job is?

Just a thought.....

-- Posted by Gene Hall68 on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 2:25 PM
Response by Chris Pruett:
Excellent point!

RB,

1. Saying that teachers (or anyone for that matter) make enough salary for living in Greene County is outright laughable. So if someone makes more than 40 or 50 grand from Greene County, they need to move to Carmel? Bull.

2. Lets also not forget that that 50 grand salary (which is top of the scale and after 20 or more years of work) is before taxes, social security, medicare, insurance, union dues and retirement fund gets taken out. Also, a teacher has to pay a grand or more every 5 years to renew their license. So make it more like 36 grand net. Again, that's top of the scale after 20 years or more of plugging away, working with MANY (NOT ALL, BUT MANY) kids who don't care, are abused, druggies, jailbirds, fighters, pregnant, or see no need in education cause their family chooses welfare instead of work. Most schools probably start their "huge" pay scale at around $30,000 gross for a first year teacher saddled with student loans to repay for taking on a profession that 90 percent of us would not want.

3. One county superintendent would cost about $150,000 in salary and benefits, and WOULD have one or MORE assistants for transportation, curriculum, personnel, etc. who would make almost as much...you wouldn't save squat.

-- Posted by NewberryUSA on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 2:33 PM

I am a single parent - with approximately $40,000 in student loans - I am in the midst of earning my master's degree. I earn just over $50,000 per year (yes, that's before taxes and health insurance and 401K are removed).

I own my own home, I own my own car, my child does not do without anything - he has hundreds of video games for almost every system they produce.

Greene County has an extremely low cost of living, earning $50,000 per year here is more than comfortable, earning $50,000 per year in Chicago or New York or California would leave anyone struggling, but frankly, I've also lived in Indianapolis, and the cost of living there isn't dramatically greater (slightly more for rent or a mortgage payment).

I didn't say (or even imply) someone earning more than $50,000 needs to leave the county, only that they can live here more than comfortably.

As for how long teacher's must work to earn that $50,000 per year, I only based my comment on Mitch's statement that $49,000 is average - which implies that 1/2 earn more than that amount. I do know that my sister, the elementary teacher, is in, I believe her 3rd year of teaching, and earns over $40,000 per year and is expecting a substantial increase when she completes her Master's, so perhaps in smaller schools the starting salary is lower, but on average, teacher's are earning an adequate amount of money, especially, as I mentioned before, considering the number of days per year they work. I work year round with no spring break, or winter break, or summer vacation to earn that same $50,000 per year.

So, back to my question, in your opinion, what should teacher's be making?

-- Posted by RB on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 3:58 PM

And by the way,

"working with MANY (NOT ALL, BUT MANY) kids who don't care, are abused, druggies, jailbirds, fighters, pregnant, or see no need in education cause their family chooses welfare instead of work"

find a social worker (probably with a Master's degree), a probation officer, or a case worker for foster care children and ask them how much they're earning... it's no where near $50,000 per year!

-- Posted by RB on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 4:10 PM

According to the US Census, in Greene County we annually pay about $5500 per student to educate them. You who are "against" the governor, how much $$$ will be enough? Do we think that if we raise taxes and salaries that the students will automatically get a better education? I don't think so. If we could take that $5500 and put our kids in a private school, they would get a far better education than they do now. Raise your hand if you would do that, too ... I thought so. Some think that just throwing more $$$ into public education helps. If Daniels were a democrat, these suggested changes would be ok with you who are so quick to ridicule now. Same would go if it were opposite! So forget the politics of the governor and think about education.

-- Posted by vintner on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 4:19 PM

I have. I'm about as close to a tree hugging liberal as they come, but he's still 100% correct!

-- Posted by RB on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 4:23 PM

Here's sensitive suggestion: since the focus seems to be on Mitch's perception of ever-rising teacher's costs and dwindling funding, and classroom education is the primary purpose of our schools, why not eliminate athletics? No more high maintenance costs for tracks, stadiums, baseball and softball fields, insurance would decrease, bus costs would decrease, etc. Please note: I'm not sold on this idea, and have kids active in sports, but I am anxious to see what others would think of this. Frankly, I don't like any of the ideas that Mitch has pitched on education.

-- Posted by BNP on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 10:48 PM

The cost of educating a child in Greene county is substantially lower...take a look at Indy...some figures within the last couple years put them well over $10,000 per student. I'm not sure why that is, but oddly many of Mitch's cuts seems directed toward smaller school districts.

You may not get a better education at a private school...but you would have a different student population...they don't take all comers like a public school. We have public schools that perform near or above that of private schools...with the added struggle with apathetic students and useless parents. It is not a fair comparison.

Athletics costs money, but it also generates money. Another example of something that is beneficial to students on many levels, but those benefits aren't easily measured in you check book.

Does a social worker have to go back to school every 5 years and take 6 hrs. of credit as long as they stay at their job? Do they pay for all of these classes out of their own pocket? Most of these teachers that work only 180 days also take classes during their summer...throw in the time to do the classes and the out of pocket expense...it isn't quite as lucrative as some on this board seem to believe. By the way a teacher making the base salary without a master's has likely been teaching close to 10 years to be making $40,000 a year.

-- Posted by GCC on Sat, Feb 13, 2010, at 1:08 AM

Social Workers, foster Care, Etc., are very much UNDERPAID as well.

I thought that this was America, and one person's idea of "comfort in living" was allowed to vary from someone else's, no matter what county they live in. You have no idea of how easily people live in any certain place judging by the amount of money they earn. They could be racked to the hilt in debt, as it sounds you are. PERHAPS YOU SHOULD GO INTO EDUCATION YOURSELF BEFORE YOU SPEAK ON HOW MUCH MONEY THEY SHOULD EARN.

btw..How are you obtaining a masters degree? By being taught in classes by teachers first, AND BUILDING UPON THE KNOWLEDGE TEACHERS UNLOCKED FOR YOU. Tell them you are welcome.

-- Posted by NewberryUSA on Wed, Feb 17, 2010, at 3:11 PM

Let's increase our tax base first by encouraging graduates to stay here in Indiana. Kentucky offers a four year schalarship to high performing (A's and B's) high school students to attend a Kentucky university. This encourages them to seek employment in the state and increases high school learning. I think there are several other states offering similar proposals but I haven't resarched it lately.

It's a very unique approach that pays the state back with long term tax base growth.

A friend of my grandpa once said, "Kentucky. It's the state with pretty horses and fast women." It has some pretty ingenious legislators too.

Go meat!!

-- Posted by cow rancher on Wed, Feb 17, 2010, at 10:41 PM


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