Legislature Again Attacking Local Control

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The State Legislature is horning in again on local control -- a practice both hypocritical and arrogant.

This time, Republican legislative leaders want to regulate how much money school districts spend on administrative expenses. They've proposed a bill that would cut the budgets of school districts that spend more than the average of comparable districts on administration. More than 100 school districts would be affected, with the total cut projected at $27 million.

A formula supposedly compares the amount of money spent on administration in districts of a similar size and nature, providing a "predicted cost" per pupil for each district. The formula tells us that for the 1996-97 fiscal year, the Payson Unified School District should have been spending $739 per pupil on administrative expenses -- but actually spent $25 more per student than that. That means the district would have to trim $61,132 from its administrative budget, which this year is $1.2 million.

If this information is valid -- that PUSD is spending more on the average for administration than similar districts -- then it is useful information. We're glad to have it. It gives us something to chew on as the PUSD School Board and administration begin to tackle the district's budget for 1999-2000.

But whether that $61,132 is chopped out of the PUSD budget should not be up to the State Legislature. That should be up to residents within PUSD boundaries and the school board they elected.

Perhaps the Arizona Department of Education could provide us with other, similar kinds of information. Then we would be better equipped to make decisions about how our local schools should be managed.

But they should be our decisions -- not those of legislators from Wilcox, Kingman, Tucson, Phoenix, and other places who may never even pass through the Rim country. It is our community to build as we see fit, not theirs.

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