Our state encourages bad school decisions

Commentary

The other week in John D’Agostino’s Publisher’s notebook column (Feb. 22), he was critical of the “edifice complex” which has infected many of the local school districts. He was right to find fault with the frivolity, waste and extravagance of many of the projects of the last 20 years.

The governor and the legislature could, if they wished, easily slow and maybe stop this profligacy. All that is necessary is that the state government should reduce the reimbursement aid ratio by at least 10 and in some cases 15 percent.

You don’t want to know how many times administrators have cited the aid ratio when questioned about the need for a project. For example: Citizen, “Is this project necessary?” Administrator, “95 percent state aid.” Citizen, “Will this project enhance student achievement?” Administrator, “The state is going to spend the money anyway, so they may as well spend it here.”

The simple truth is that the state government has, by its irresponsible generosity, created a perverse incentive for districts to waste money. Rest assured that there are plenty of banks, bond issue lawyers, bond underwiters, architects and contractors who are eager and enthusiastic about helping schools in this madness.

To repeat paragraph two, the aid ratio should be cut by 10 percent, say from 95 percent to 85 percent. Eighty-five percent aid is enough that necessary projects would get done. The 10 percent cut is enough to ensure that people would take a much harder look at gravy and frosting.

Larry Zollinger is a South Dayton resident.

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