Efficiency and Effectiveness in Minnesota School Districts

It is no secret that public schools across the country have been coping with slower increases in funding, or even cuts, due to the recent economic downturn. And although the economy has now been recovering for some time, school administrators wisely continue to seek ways to streamline their operations by improving efficiency while maintaining and improving academic achievement.

For example, one consultant provided an analysis to the administrators of the Hopkins Public School District that detailed the relatively high costs of administration in that district compared to districts with similar achievement and demographics. His analysis stated: “Although equal to its peers nationwide in spending per pupil and student/teacher ratio, the Hopkins School District receives significantly more revenue on a local basis yet also spends a disproportionate amount of dollars on administrative expenses versus its peer group…[T]he Hopkins School District does not run as efficiently as it could, nor as efficiently as a private business would require.” The analysis found that, on average, Hopkins spends 18 percent more on administrative costs than comparable districts. Going beyond Hopkins, this analysis concluded: “If Minnesota school districts would consolidate back-end office systems (like any good company would do with multiple locations) the state of Minnesota would save $39,988,000 [in] annual savings.” These savings would pay for approximately 952 new teachers.

While efforts that detail ways to implement cost-saving measures and other attempts to improve educational efficiency are making headlines across the state, 2 two national studies released in 2004 tell a conflicting story of the issue in Minnesota. While we are ranked as one of the most generous states in the nation with regard to funding for districts with high populations of poor and minority students, our largest city, Minneapolis, has the second largest gap in the nation between the graduation rates of white male students and black male students. In other words, it appears that the generosity of taxpayers is not paying the same dividends in Minneapolis as it does in other districts across the country.