Legislation proposed by a senator representing Canadian County could affect at least two small schools in the county.
Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, has proposed legislation that would consolidate the administrations of school districts with fewer than 200 students.
In Canadian County, the Riverside and Maple school districts are below that threshold.
Bice said she proposed the legislation because there are many districts across the state with fewer than 200 students, and in each case they have superintendents earning large salaries.
An example, Bice said, is Creek County, which has about 14,000 students in 16 districts. In each case, there is a superintendent being paid thousands of dollars. The total for Creek County superintendents receive is $1.6 million
However, Yukon and Mustang schools have a combined 20,000 students. The districts only have superintendent each. Their combined salaries in the 2015-16 years, the last year for which figures are available, were $403,317.
“The first thing is, this is not school consolidation. It is administrative consolidations – superintendents, human resources, IT, treasurer,” she said.
Bice said her proposal would impact about 45 to 55 districts.
“This would allow some cost savings,” she said.
Bice also admitted that her proposal is unlikely to be heard during the current special session. She plans to revive it in the regular session that begins in February.
The bill suggests that a single superintendent would oversee the operations of multiple nearby small districts.
Principals would handle internal administration at the schools, Bice said.
Bice said she based the cut-off at 200 students as a starting point.
“If we can start with the small school districts, we may find a way to move potentially to the larger ones. These are thing we need to work with the communities on,” she said.
In Canadian County, Riverside and Maple schools would be impacted if Bice’s proposal is approved.
Riverside, a K-8 grade school, has a student population in 2017-18 of 178. That is down 10 from last year.
Its superintendent earned almost $90,000, according to state Department of Education data.
Maple Schools had a student population of 160 last year. This year’s numbers were not immediately available.
Its superintendent earned $42,000, according to state data.
David Garner, who is superintendent at Riverside School near El Reno, said he isn’t necessarily opposed to consolidation of administrative services, but believes it should be a local-control issue, not the business of the state legislature.
“I am not real fond of the legislation. That shouldn’t be the legislature’s decision. It should be a local decision,” he said.
Garner, who has been at Riverside for four years, said the proposal doesn’t really save money in his district, because the school would still need a principal.
In the case of Riverside, he serves as both superintendent and principal.
“I do whatever needs to be done,” he said.
Garner said there are ways to save money, but consolidating the administration is not the right way to do it.
He said there are areas where collaboration can save funds. Riverside and El Reno currently collaborate on a special education teacher. Garner said it makes no sense for Riverside to hire a special education teacher for 15 students when El Reno already has someone on staff.
“We currently do that,” he said.
Meanwhile, a second piece of legislation authored by Bice also could impact how schools pay their teachers.
Bice said she expects the bill to be considered during the 2018 session.
It would allow voters to decide if schools could pass bond issues to provide pay increases for their teachers.
Currently, that is not allowed by law.
“It is a local control issue. Now, you are funding teacher pay through ad valorem or the state aid formula,” she said. “This allows the communities to decide if they want to give teachers a pay raise. It gives them a choice.”
Bice said there are districts that want to give teachers more pay, but don’t currently have the extra funding.
She said her proposal also would provide districts with an incentive to draw top-level teachers.
Bice said the legislation was introduced in the 2017 legislature, and was carried over for the 2018 session.