Florida School District Impresses Taxpayers by Saving $5.3 Million, Then Disappoints by Frittering it Away

burning money

Florida’s Lake County school district recently decided to re-structure its school day – from “block” scheduling to a full seven classes a day– and saved $5.3 million in the process.

District leaders trumpeted a plan to use that money to hire 96 employees – 83 of whom would work directly with students. The idea was to direct more money into the classroom, where it can directly benefit students.

But that plan has been replaced by a new one that calls for district leaders to piddle away most of the $5.3 million savings on new employees who won’t instruct students at all.

OrlandoSun.com columnist Lauren Ritchie reports:

“When the plan goes before the School Board on Monday, members will be asked to spend only a quarter of the $5.3 million on human beings actually teaching students. About $1.3 million would pay for 21 teachers and 15 teacher aides

“About $2.3 million of it is to hire 45 more new employees with titles ranging from ‘program innovation and evaluation specialist’ to ‘certified testing facilitator.’ None will be doing any teaching, but 16 of them will be watching students take tests or work on computers.

“Another $1 million is set aside for teacher salary increases and bonuses.

“The rest, in typical School Board spending style, would pay for everything from $170,000 worth of useless consultants to $20,000 worth of travel, $76,000 in computers and supplies to $84,000 in ‘professional development.’”

Ritchie thinks it would have been wiser to use the pot of money to hire a slew of teacher aides for the lowest-performing schools.

One reason officials didn’t hire more classroom helpers is because they discovered – shazam! – the district “already has 45 ‘quasi-academic’ employees who are supposed to be working directly with students,” Ritchie reports.

These existing school employees flew under the radar because they’ve never been properly trained as to what they should be doing. As a result, some of the “quasi-academic” employees have been used to make copies for teachers and to perform other low-end tasks.

The district plans to finally train these folks so they can help struggling students.

If Lake County school leaders were alone in their bungling ways, this story wouldn’t have much meaning for a national audience.

However, EAGnews has conducted numerous investigations of K-12 spending practices and has concluded that financial waste and mismanagement are rampant throughout America’s education system.

Taxpayers are frequently told their local schools are “underfunded” and that budgets have been cut “to the bone.” That’s almost never true.

What is true is that many of the nation’s schools have been turned into employment centers for adults. That results in schools having bloated budgets to pay employees who add very little to the overall mission of educating children.

That’s how a school district ends up with 45 “quasi-academic” employees who spend their days making photo copies for teachers.


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