It is encouraging to see progress as O’Fallon and Shiloh schools gather the money to study consolidation. Still, the questions determine the answers so it would be reassuring to know that they are not studying “whether” to merge but rather “how” to merge.
They have promises for about half the money for a study. They got the local chamber of commerce to conduct the study so its results would be independent.
Additionally, this should be approached as an investment in government efficiency. Consider the study a “how-to” from the outset, and the conclusions should support the logic of fewer administrators, less duplication of services ranging from IT to lunches, combined purchasing and transportation, and shared use of buildings.
This is worth pondering after Swansea just demonstrated how a government efficiency measure can be turned on its head. The smallest of St. Clair County’s 911 call centers turned a merger intended as a taxpayer savings into a bigger taxpayer drain.
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They picked Belleville to handle their calls at a cost of nearly $100,000 more than the county would have charged. Then they hired replacement staff for the front desk so someone could walk in at any time.
Government leadership needs to determine the mission and then set goals for staffers. O’Fallon and Shiloh need to make it clear that improved efficiency and education outcomes are desired, and that they want a road map to that place. We independently have X dollars to achieve Y results, so together we want to get to Z.
Consolidation is a way for O’Fallon and Shiloh residents to even out the drastically different funding that students in the four different school districts see invested in their educations. One child should not receive $1,889 less in public dollars toward their education than a peer across the street.
Here’s hoping other communities follow O’Fallon’s lead as we try to cut St. Clair County’s 27 school districts down to something more like Madison County’s 13 districts.