Wednesday, November 27, 2002


In the aftermath of the failed OPS spending-lid override earlier this month, one claim left hanging is the OPS contention that they do not, indeed, overspend on administration.

In a Nov. 14 column, retired World-Herald publisher Harold W. Andersen quoted Superintendent John Mackiel as saying that OPS spends 1.5 percent of its operational budget on central administration.

That sounded terribly efficient. It gave readers the idea that the other 98.5 percent was going straight into the pockets of those hard-working teachers . . . which would be great. But this is Omaha . . . not Fairytale Land.

That 1.5 percent is an enormous understatement. It tallies costs for only central-office educrats. It leaves out a large number of other nonteaching school district administrators, including principals and their staffs.

OPS actually spends 15.1 percent of its operating budget on administration, which is more than the average of 55 similar large, urban school districts, according to the Common Core of Data of the National Center on Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. Based on statistics provided to the Education Finance Statistics Center for fiscal year 1998, OPS' 15.1 percent on administration compares to 12.7 percent on average for the other 55 larger districts deemed to be OPS' peers.

The Omaha district also slightly underspent on core instruction compared to its peers, devoting 68.2 percent of its funds to teachers, student support such as health, attendance, guidance and speech, and staff support such as curricular development, in-staff training and educational media. The 55 other large districts devoted 69.5 percent to core academics.

The comparison showed that OPS enjoyed a more favorable student-to-teacher ratio of 16:1 compared to the peer districts' 17.8:1.

One of the most important factors in evaluating a district's performance is the educational attainment of the parents of its students. The better-educated your population, the easier it is to teach their kids. OPS has a better environment than its peer districts: 80.8 percent of the residents of OPS were reported to be high-school graduates, compared to 73.6 percent of the people who live in the peer districts.

The higher the household income, the easier the education job, and this is another measurement that appears favorable for OPS. Median income of all households within OPS was slightly higher than the peer districts, at $26,098 per household vs. $25,946.

OPS also had far fewer minority children enrolled -- 26.4 percent compared to 50.2 percent as an average of the other 55 districts -- and fewer children in poverty, 19.6 percent for OPS vs. 27.9 percent for the other districts.

To sum up: it looks as though OPS really does spend a little bit more than the going rate on administration, spends a little less than the going rate on actual instruction, and has a little bit easier education challenge than its peer districts.

Its actual spending on administration is 10 times higher than the 1.5 percent that might have been inferred from the World-Herald article.

Does this mean a whole bunch of OPS administrators ought to be drop-kicked from the top of the TAC building straight to the unemployment line?

Of course not.

We ought to send them in district-owned vehicles. They have ENOUGH of them, don't you know. :>)

Just kidding. I think competent administrators are vital for any school district and I don't think administrative staffing patterns in our schools are all that outrageous.

I just think we ought to lay all the cards out nicely on the table and start playing this game fair and square.

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