North Star State Looking Up on Public School Efficiency

As we work our way through Minnesota during summer fishing trips, I invariably make it a point to announce to the group that Hibbing is the hometown of none other than Bob Dylan as we pass by. The other gentlemen on the trip rarely seem to care, but I like to make it known that I’m aware of this fact and that I celebrate his work. 

And now it seems apropos that the North Star State is working to avoid getting its public education system "Tangled Up in Red (Tape)." Despite my miserable segue, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office offers this:

Governor Tim Pawlenty and key legislators today announced a bipartisan proposal that will require Minnesota school districts and charter schools to combine efforts to reduce costs. The proposal will compel schools to pool limited resources in order to deliver more cost-effective services, redirect administrative costs, and reduce duplication…

“There are 340 school districts and 150 charter schools in the state, but back-room functions don’t need to be duplicated 490 times,” Governor Tim Pawlenty said. “Shared services will allow Minnesota schools to focus resources where they are needed the most – in the classroom and on improving student achievement.”

Also interesting:

Governor Pawlenty is hopeful that the Legislature will pass a bill for this initiative sooner rather than later so that districts may realize savings during the 2009-2010 school year. School districts in other states have saved 5 to 15 percent in purchasing and information technology services. For example:

• One Pennsylvania school district was able to save approximately $100,000 through the sharing of food services that helped standardize health and safety practices.

• The California Charter School Association entered into shared services agreements for worker’s compensation insurance resulting in approximately $20,000 in savings per school on an annual basis.

• Through the Midwestern Higher Education Commission, IT software sharing occurs among Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin resulting in a combined savings of $750,000.